French President Emmanuel Macron is suing a billboard operator who displayed a banner depicting him as Adolf Hitler, it was reported Wednesday.
The posters, which appeared in the southern city of Toulon, showed Macron dressed as the Nazi leader with text beneath reading: “Obey. Get vaccinated.”
Macron’s lawyers are suing Michel-Ange Flori, the man who created the image and billboard, the Guardian newspaper reported.
“I was surprised and shocked,” Flori told a local paper, after being summoned by police over the incident.
“They confirmed that there had been a complaint from the Elysée,” he added, referring to the French president’s official residence.
Anti-vaccine demonstrators in France, and around the world, have repeatedly compared the coronavirus vaccine to the horrors of the Holocaust.
The anti-vaxx movement in France paid for this billboard. They compare Emmanuel Macron to Adolf Hitler, the vaccination programme to Nazi Germany and his party to the Nazi Party. pic.twitter.com/Kz1WYBQB5y
— Stephane Savary ???? יְהוֹשֻׁעַ ???? (@stephane_ulrich) July 20, 2021
“In Macron-land, showing the Prophet’s rear is satire, making fun of Macron as a dictator is blasphemy,” Flori tweeted, referring to controversial caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed published by the Charlie Hebdo magazine prior to a deadly gun rampage by terrorists in Paris in 2015.
Flori operates some 400 billboards in the southeastern Var region of the country, according to the report.
He said he has created around 100 provocative banners, but insisted he is exercising his right to freedom of expression, the Guardian reported.
At a large protest in Paris this month against vaccine rules, some demonstrator wore Stars of David reading “not vaccinated,” a direct reference to the patches Jews were forced to wear by the Nazis.
Polls suggest most French people support the government’s measures during the pandemic, but they have prompted anger in some quarters. Vandals targeted two vaccination centers in southwest France this month weekend — one was set on fire, and another covered in graffiti, including a reference to the Nazi occupation of France.
France has reported more than 112,000 deaths in the pandemic, and new confirmed cases are increasing again, raising worries about renewed pressure on hospitals and further restrictions.