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Street Art Mural Stirs Controversy in France

A temporary mural painted in the context of a street-art festival in Grenoble drew angry commentaries and calls for immediate removal last week. The painting, by French street artist Goin, depicts two armed police officers wielding batons over a woman holding the French flag. The cowering female closely resembles “Marianne,” the ubiquitous symbol of Republican France whose profile is the country’s official government logo and whose likeness also appears on French euro coins.

“To represent the police clubbing Marianne, and therefore the Republic less than ten days ago, they gave their lives for France, is outrageous!” said Patrick Mairesse, the departmental director of public safety, referring to the June 13 murder of two French police officers by a gunman who pledged his allegiance to ISIS. Chiming in on Twitter, Bernard Cazeneuve, France’s minister of the interior, gave his “full support to the police that protect the people of Grenoble every day.” Cazeneuve, along with other politicians and civilians have publicly called for Grenoble’s mayor Eric Piolle to apologize for the mural.

The mayor’s office responded to an inquiry by Le Figaro with a statement supporting freedom of expression, a right protected by law in France. “The city has no authority to intervene and pass jugement on this artwork.” The spokesperson, however, did emphasize that “the mural was not commissioned by the city.”

The mural, The State Beating Liberty, remained for the duration of Street Art Fest Grenoble and was then removed as planned.