A right-wing mayor in a small town in France that is aligned with the anti-immigrant National Front political party has come under intense fire and now faces hate crime charges after merely making some observations about the effects of the massive migration of Muslims into his town that can also be applied to France more broadly and the entirety of Europe as a whole.
According to the BBC, Bezeirs Mayor Robert Menard will stand trial starting March 8 to face charges of incitement to hate and discrimination, charges which stem from a series of politically incorrect tweets made by the mayor at the start of the school year.
On September 1, the first day of school for French students, Menard tweeted: “
The “grand replacement” term is one that has become increasingly widespread in France and refers to the incredible demographic shift in some areas of the country towards a more Muslim population in place of the traditional white Christian population that has lived in the region for centuries.
Menard followed up that tweet with a remark to the media on Sept. 5, noting, “In a downtown classroom, 91% of children are Muslim. Obviously, this is a problem. There are thresholds of tolerance.”
After taking heat for his comment, Menard pointed out, “I just described the situation in my town… It is not a value judgement, it’s a fact. It’s what I can see.”
While things may have eventually blown over following those initial statements, The New Observer reported that Menard renewed the firestorm in October with a tweeted picture of white schoolchildren from the 1970s with a caption that read: “Compare a class photo of the 70s with a picture of today. #GrandReplacement is undeniable!”
— Robert Ménard (@RobertMenardFR) October 3, 2016
These tweets, as well as a series of anti-migrant posters he had hung in prominent locations around the city, earned him the condemnation of the International League against Racism and Anti-Semitism (LICRA), who in turn pressured local prosecutors to bring hate crime charges against the mayor.
In their view, Menard had committed the “(O)ffense of direct provocation of discrimination, hatred or violence against a group of persons on grounds of belonging to a nation, race, ethnic group or religion.”
According to the U.K. Daily Mail, the group added, “The repeated targeting of people or groups because of their origin or their beliefs cannot be accepted.”
He has also taken intense criticism for personally telling Muslim refugees that they aren’t welcome in his town, as well as for resisting government plans to locate a refugee center in his town without his prior knowledge.
It remained to be seen if Menard would be convicted of the hate crime charges or if common sense will prevail. Regardless, this instance of hate crime charges stemming from an opinionated observation should serve as a stark reminder of why we treasure the freedom of speech so much in America and why we must resist any and all efforts to stifle such speech, even if we don’t like it, through the imposition of supposed hate crime speech laws, such as they have in many places in Europe.
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