A right-wing French lawmaker has caused an uproar by shouting “Go back to Africa” at comments made by a black lawmaker during Thursday’s parliamentary session that were broadcast to the public.
National Assembly (RN) parliamentary representative Greger de Furnas interrupts Carlos Martens Bilongo of the far-left France Unbowed (LFI) party during a session of the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament.
Bilongo called on the French government to work with EU countries, especially Italy and its newly elected far-right Prime Minister George Mellon, to help several hundred African migrants rescued from the Mediterranean.
De Fournas interrupted, shouting, “Go back to Africa.”
Chaos immediately broke out in the chamber, leading National Assembly President Jal Braun-Pivet to temporarily adjourn the session.
Bilongo and his party described the chant as a racist personal attack, although de Furnas’ party has argued that the chant was actually aimed at the migrants being discussed.
“Today some people put my skin color back at the center of the debate. I was born in France and I am a French legislator and I don’t think I will be insulted today [like this] In the National Assembly,” Bilongo told reporters after the incident.
Mathilde Panota, the leader of the far-left group France Unbowed in the National Assembly, has demanded that de Furnas face the most severe punishment for the French legislature – deportation. “Racists like him have no place in our parliament,” Panot tweeted.
De Fournas said he was talking about migrants, tweeting that France Unbowed had “hijacked” his words in a “disgraceful manipulation”.
“My reply was about the boat and the migrants, obviously not my colleague,” he tweeted.
According to the rules of French phonetics, there is little audible difference between the sentences “He should go back to Africa” and “They should go back to Africa,” as expressed by de Fournas.
Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right RN party in France’s lower house, tweeted her support for de Furnas.
“Gregoire de Fournas was obviously talking about migrants being transported in boats by NGOs, which our colleague mentioned in his question to the government. The polemic created by our political opponents is crude and will not disappoint the French,” she wrote.
Prime Minister Elizabeth Bourne told reporters after the session that “racism has no place in our democracy.”
Parliament will hold a hearing on Friday to decide on de Furnas’ sentence. Expulsion, the harshest punishment handed down to a lawmaker from parliament, has been handed down only once during France’s Fifth Republic to communist lawmaker Maxime Gremet for disrupting a parliamentary session in 2011, CNN affiliate BFMTV reports.