Vaccine Refusal Activist Who Brandished Antisemitic Sign That Went Viral Is Sentenced by French Court
A vaccine refusal activist has been convicted by a court in France of incitement to racial hatred for displaying an antisemitic sign at a demonstration last August against the French government’s COVID-19 “vaccine pass” scheme.
Cassandre Fristot was handed a six month suspended prison sentence on Wednesday by a court in the north-eastern city of Metz.
Images of Fristot holding the home-made sign at an Aug. 12 demonstration in Metz went viral in France, with the country’s interior minister and other leading politicians condemning its antisemitic message. The sign identified a group of overwhelmingly Jewish personalities as “traitors” — among them billionaire financier George Soros, prominent philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy, current French national health director Jérôme Salomon, and former Health Minister Agnès Buzyn, who is the daughter of a Holocaust survivor.
The words “Mais Qui?” — “But Who?” — were scrawled in large red letters on the sign, with devil’s horns marking the letter “Q.” That in turn was a reference to a now infamous June 22 television interview with a retired French army general who embarked on an antisemitic rant in which he deliberately avoided mention of the word “Jew” while pushing anti-Jewish tropes.
Fristot, a former parliamentary candidate for the neo-fascist National Front (FN), did not appear at the court on Wednesday. Her lawyer blamed her absence on “harassment by journalists” along with unspecified threats. The president of the tribunal, Marie-José Miceli, responded by saying, “That’s a pity, I would have liked to ask her a few questions myself.”
A statement from Fristot read out to the court denied any antisemitic intent behind the sign. “I wanted to denounce the powerful,” Fristot said. “I blame them for their decisions, and not their religious denomination.” Her lawyers had argued for a dismissal of the charges on the grounds that Fristot’s sign only became a national controversy after Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin denounced it in a Twitter post.
A coalition of Jewish and anti-racist organizations filed the original complaint against Fristot, including the Union of Jewish Students (UEJF), the International League Against Racism and Antisemitism (LICRA) and SOS Racisme.
Meanwhile, the Party of France (PF) — an extreme right-wing breakaway from the nationalist National Rally (RN) Party — announced that it would be providing Fristot with “financial assistance.”
The party’s leader, Thomas Joly, denounced Fristot’s sentencing as “a purely political judicial decision, ignoring the law.”