Thousands of people gathered on Saturday in some regions in France to condemn a law being prepared and which organizers consider violating freedoms in a country that has been rocked since Thursday by a new case related to police violence and puts pressure on the government.
In Paris, Bordeaux, Lyon, Strasbourg, Marseille, Grenoble, Clermont-Ferrand, and Caen … rallies will be held against this text, which opponents consider violates freedom of expression and the rule of law.
In some cities, the protests began on Saturday morning. In Lille (North), a gathering of one thousand and 1,500 people, headed by Mayor Martin Aubry, gathered under the slogan “Freedom, Equality, Shoot!”
“We are being beaten in scenes that are being cut,” he wrote on a banner raised among the flags, the insignia of the Press Club and several unions, especially for journalists or for the Human Rights Association.
In Montpellier (south), there were between four and five thousand people, some of whom carried placards that read, “More police than doctors – a sense of priorities” or “democracy is disrupted”.
In Rennes (West), Maude, 45, said she came to protest this “true denial of democracy” and “an authoritarian tendency.”
At the core of the protests that escalated until a political crisis sparked, three articles of the “Comprehensive Security Law” bill, which received the green light from the National Assembly last week, relate to the publication of photos and videos of police officers while performing their work, and the security forces’ use of drones and surveillance cameras.
The Coordination Committee calling for gatherings believed that “this draft law aims to undermine freedom of the press, freedom of information and information, and freedom of expression, that is, in short, basic public freedoms in our republic.”
Article 24, which focuses on attention, stipulates a one-year prison sentence and a fine of 45,000 euros for broadcasting pictures of police and gendarmes motivated by “bad faith.” The government asserts that this article aims to protect individuals who are subjected to hate campaigns and calls for killing on social networks while revealing details of their private lives.
However, opponents of the text point out that many of the cases of violence committed by the police would not have been revealed had they not been picked up by the lenses of journalists and citizens’ phones. They assert that the law is useless, as the current laws are sufficient to deal with such crimes, pointing out that French law “punishes actions, not intentions.”
The controversy flared up this week with the disclosure of two cases related to police violence, turning a difficult political phase for the government into a real crisis. On Monday, the police conducted a violent intervention to dismantle a migrant camp set up in a square in central Paris as part of a media operation by organizations defending them, and they also attacked journalists in front of cameras and smartphones.
But the condemnation reached its climax Thursday with the publication of CCTV images showing three police officers severely beating a black music producer.
The press, social media, and some senior figures in the sport denounced police violence. On Friday evening, French President Emmanuel Macron condemned this “unacceptable attack” and “shameful images”, calling on the government to “quickly present to him proposals” for “combating all forms of discrimination more effectively.”
On Thursday, Macron asked Interior Minister Gerald Darmanan, who is considered a central figure in his government, to impose very clear sanctions on the elements involved in striking Michel Zilker.
In the face of the wave of denunciations of Article 24, Prime Minister Jean Castex sought to find a way out by forming an “independent committee charged with proposing a new formulation.” However, the initiative met with the dissatisfaction of parliamentarians with all the trends, who considered it a sign of “contempt”, and met about the “opposition” of the President of the National Assembly, Richard Ferrand, of the “Republic Forward” (the presidential majority).
The Coordination Committee calls for “the withdrawal of articles 21, 22 and 24 of the comprehensive security law proposal and the withdrawal of the new national plan to maintain order” that was announced in September and which forces journalists during the demonstrations to disperse when the security forces issue an order to do so, which prevents them from covering the events during these gatherings. There has been turmoil in recent years.
The French and foreign press condemned “security delinquency” and “an abuse of rights.” Among the critical voices is the President of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michel Bachelet, and the UN human rights rapporteur.