A teacher in eastern France will go on trial next month, accused of seeking to incite racial hatred, after brandishing a sign at a protest against new COVID-19 restrictions that police said was clearly antisemitic, prosecutors said on Tuesday.
Cassandre Fristot, 34, was seen at the protest on Saturday in the eastern city of Metz holding a sign denouncing President Emmanuel Macron’s enforcement of a health pass in France to encourage people to get vaccinated.
The sign contained the names of several prominent politicians, businessmen and intellectuals in France, most of them Jewish, and police said it “had a message that was manifestly antisemitic.”
The sign’s headline said: “But who?” in an apparent reference to a June interview given by retired general Daniel Delawarde to the CNEWS TV network, in which he was asked “Who controls the media?” and answered, “The community you know well.”
The sign also declared “Traitors!!!” while listing a series of names, including French President Emmanuel Macron, Hungarian Jewish billionaire George Soros, Jewish intellectual Bernard-Henri Levy, Jewish economist Jacques Attali, Jewish former Health Minister Agnès Buzyn, French-Israeli telecom magnate Patrick Drahi and World Economic Forum Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab.
Fristot, a former local councilor for the far-right National Rally (RN), was detained on Monday and her home was searched. Metz prosecutor Christian Mercuri said her trial would start on September 8. If convicted, she risks up to one year in prison and a 45,000 euro ($53,000) fine.
Cette pancarte est abjecte. L’antisémitisme est un délit, en aucun cas une opinion. De tels propos ne resteront pas impunis. J’ai demandé @prefet57 de faire un signalement au Parquet sur la base de l’article 40.
Les services de police sont mobilisés pour identifier leur auteur. pic.twitter.com/VDEoMp3W8c
— Gérald DARMANIN (@GDarmanin) August 8, 2021
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin had on Monday shared the image of Fristot brandishing the sign on his Twitter account, describing it as “despicable,” and then announcing she had been arrested.
“Antisemitism is a crime, not an opinion. Such words will not go unpunished,” he said.
The Israeli Embassy in France said on Monday that it was “appalled at such an expression of the most despicable antisemitic hatred.”
About 237,000 people protested across France on Saturday against the COVID-19 health pass that critics say encroaches on civil liberties. Macron has retorted that people are neglecting their duty as citizens if they fail to get vaccinated.
Anti-vaccination activists in France have previously drawn outrage by comparing themselves to Jews who were persecuted by Nazi Germany during World War II. Holocaust survivors, French officials and anti-racism groups have expressed indignation.