Police on Wednesday fired water cannons and tear gas to disperse protestors in the wake of a protest by a social network group that is attempting to thwart the banning of a controversial mural near the Louvre Museum in Paris. The rioters threw flaming objects and set fires as the protesters created chaos after the authorities announced that they planned to close streets surrounding the Arromanches water fountain.
The Brussels police spokesman, Yves Deabart, told the Associated Press that 35,000 protesters had gathered in the Belgian capital’s streets, and that “police are deploying in order to protect the population.” Deabart added that authorities had made 11 arrests. The authorities had sought to stop Wednesday’s protests at the Franco-Belgian border, but the protesters were allowed through. Protesters from different European countries were also reportedly crossing into France to join the demonstration.
Anti-Covid protestors marched in the square in the eastern outskirts of the Belgian capital. The group was founded by artists and academics who were prompted to act after President Emmanuel Macron’s government announced a new law that would ban certain public art from being drawn on public walls. The previous law barred nude figures from being drawn on any wall and terracotta sculptures of children under the age of six.
The temporary ban that has been met with stiff opposition in the art world. Critics of the law have said that unless a ban can be lifted, art will disappear from public squares in Paris, as many galleries and museums are located on the highly regulated public domains of the French capital.
Artist Loulou de Lage likened the plan to a “holy crusade,” calling for those opposed to the ban to march to the presidential palace. “Liberty and art in Paris will never die,” she wrote in a statement that was posted to Twitter.
Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, defended the plan, saying it was just “common sense.”
The statue that is at the center of the controversy is a full-size replica of the portrait of Russian artist Ilya Repin created in 1998 in the Czech Republic, with allusions to women’s periods and anatomical subjects.
Since Russia outlawed the sale of all depictions of women’s periods in 2011, this piece has been deemed an “assault” against women’s rights and a “blasphemy.” In France, lawmakers voted in favor of the permanent ban following a similar “feminist zealotry” that saw the House vote to ban breastfeeding in public in 1999.
Speaking to The New York Times on Tuesday, de Lage suggested that the current ban on such art as their too drastic of a response. “For 20 years I’ve seen this sculpture, and I think it’s a genuine masterpiece,” she said. “It doesn’t even mention a woman. What’s the problem?”