Police speak with wealthy billboard operator who depicted French president as Nazi leader
Lawyers for the French president Emmanuel Macron are suing the creator of billboards representing him as Adolf Hitler. Photograph: Reuters
The Guardian-Kim Willsher in Paris
Lawyers for the French president are suing after the large images appeared in the Var in the south of France.
The posters, one of which appeared at the entrance to the Mediterranean town of Toulon – capital of the Var and home to an important naval base – showed Macron represented as the Nazi leader, with his toothbrush moustache, in full uniform and with the swastika armband altered to read LREM – La République En Marche – the president’s governing centre-right party. The accompanying slogan reads: “Obey. Get vaccinated.”
Michel-Ange Flori, who created and pasted the image on billboards, told the local newspaper he had been summoned by local police. “They confirmed that there had been a complaint from the Elysée,” Flori told Var-Matin. “I was surprised and shocked.”
He later tweeted: “In Macron-land, showing the Prophet’s rear is satire, making fun of Macron as a dictator is blasphemy,” referring to the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo’s controversial caricatures of the Prophet Muhammed.
Corsican-born Flori, who owns about 400 advertising billboards in the Var region, has previously caused controversy with his posters. In 2019, at the height of the Gilets Jaunes movement he was fined €30,000 for an advertisement reading: “The police talk to you every day on BFM-TV”, referring to the frequent appearance of police officers on the popular rolling news station.
He has also targeted ministers, including the former interior minister Christophe Castaner and current interior minister Gérald Darmanin.
In 1999 he was sentenced to seven years in prison for having “ordered the destruction of a building using explosive substances” after allegedly targeting his former employer, a charge he has always denied.
Over the last 20 years, Flori claims he has produced at least 100 provocative posters, insisting he is exercising his right to freedom of expression.