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Confederate flag in Paris police precinct draws scorn

Ministère intérieur, Twitter | French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve visits a police precinct with questionable decorative tastes, October 2014.

A picture of French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve has caused consternation, as it unintentionally revealed a Confederate flag hanging inside a Paris police precinct he was visiting last week.

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The embarrassing photograph was posted on the official Twitter account of France’s Interior Ministry on October 23, after Cazeneuve dropped in on officers working in the 14th district of the French capital earlier in the day.

It shows the minister in the foreground, standing in a cramped office and examining the back of a credit card with senior law enforcement agents.

But on close inspection, a Confederate flag can be made out in the background, hanging on the far wall of an adjacent office. Cazeneuve appears to be unaware of its presence.

The controversial flag, sometimes referred to as the Dixie flag or the Southern Cross, is associated with the breakaway Southern states that fought against Northern states in the US Civil War.

The sight of a Confederate flag in France is extremely rare as it is widely considered an emblem of slavery and racism. Seeing it hanging inside a public building is all the more shocking to French citizens.

As interior minister, Cazeneuve is the head of the French national police.

RTL radio, who reported on the minister’s strange photo op, pointed out that the flag has been adopted by far-right extremists in the US, and is regularly brandished by white supremacist groups like the Ku Klux Klan.

Comments left by Twitter users on the Interior Ministry’s account reflected the bewilderment and dismay sparked by the picture.

“Cazeneve, police, the flag of South Africa during apartheid is missing from your collection,” one person joked.

Christophe Crépin, a spokesman for France’s largest police union, told the Street Press news website that the flag did not reflect any racist inclinations.

“It’s a decoration that helps liven up the difficult work police confront and to cover up walls that badly need repair,” he was quoted as saying.

Another French news website reported that the Confederate flag had already been taken down at the precinct.

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