The bust of de Gaulle in the northern town of Hautmont near the Belgian border was splashed with bright orange paint and the back of its pedestal daubed with the slogan “slaver”.
The act comes as statues are being toppled and removed globally amid worldwide anti-racism protests in the wake of the death in US police custody of George Floyd.
President Emmanuel Macron said in an address to the nation on Sunday that France would not erase “a trace” of its history and vowed it would not remove statues of its historical figures.
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De Gaulle is seen as a national hero in France for resisting the Nazi occupation while in exile before himself becoming head of state in 1958.
Slavery was abolished throughout France in 1848.
Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire condemned the damage in a post on Twitter.
“The vandalising of the bust of General de Gaulle at Hautmont is a negation of our national history and an insult to the dignity of the man who always defended the dignity of France and the French,” he wrote.
?? Nord : Une statue du général de Gaulle taguée et recouverte de peinture à Hautmont https://t.co/PSvarFzyJV
— Actu17 (@Actu17) June 15, 2020
The local mayor Joel Wilmotte told AFP the statue had already been cleaned, denouncing the vandalism as “scandalous”.
The head of the regional council for northern France, the prominent right-wing politician and former minister Xavier Bertrand, said the act was particularly outrageous coming days ahead Thursday of the 80th anniversary of de Gaulle's 1940 call on the French to keep fighting.
“At a time when we must remember that General de Gaulle kept the Resistance flame alive, the vandalisation of this statue in Hautmont is scandalous,” he said, demanding that the perpetrators be punished.
Local MP Sebastien Chenu added: “The French, and even more its political leaders, must always remember that it is largely thanks to him that France could be liberated when everything seemed lost.”