French police officers argued with protestors when over one hundred people gathered outside the Gérard Philippe theatre in Paris’s Saint Denis in opposition of Exhibit B. The venue which planned to show the controversial installation cancelled the premiere event after only two ‘performances’ of semi naked Africans in objectifying poses.
CRAN, one of France’s African community rights group supported the protest which had already attracted over 14,000 supporters through an online petition by the group Collectif CONTRE EXHIBIT B.
Theatre director Jean Bellorini cancelled the premiere event as police confronted human right protestors who were chanting “Respect our ancestors!”, “we’re people not animals”, “No to racism”, and “Cancel the show”.
Journalist Gilda Di Carli described how a “metal barrier was pushed over and everyone, protesters and journalists included, rushed up the stairs toward the entrance of the theatre.”
Although a window was damaged and several barricades pushed over no one was seriously hurt or arrested.
Bellorini who described the incident as a ‘riot’ and called the protest a “rape of freedom of expression” was insistent that he would not cancel future showings of the racist exhibition and vowed to employ the use of more police and barriers to suppress human right protestors standing up against “Exhibit B ou les privilèges de l'homme blanc” (Exhibit B or the white mans’ privileges).
Despite its overt racism and African objectification, in France, Exhibit B has received support from the League of Human Rights, the MRAP, LICRA, the Observatory of the freedom of establishment, Syndeac (trade association of performing arts), Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo and Culture Minister Fleur Pellerin who condemned the protest for African dignity as attempts at intimidation and censorship.
Bellorini also has the support of José Manuel Gonçalves, fellow director of 104, the next venue where Exhibit B is scheduled to be installed. Speaking on the matter Gonçalves said “The deprogramming of 104 would give reason to Cran. The work is not racist, I see no reason to remove it.”
The controversial exhibitionist Brett Bailey who created the dehumanising installation condemned protestors and incited violence against them by calling for ‘fire’ and ‘rage’ at those who opposed his human zoo project. Insensitive towards the feelings of the African people he claims to be representing he said on his Facebook page “My performers are full of fire. My team is full of fire. The presenters are full of fire. Rage, rage against the dying of the light. The show will go on. Watch this space.”