Clashes and violence in Paris: fines and jail time for publishing videos of police brutality

 

Article 24 prohibits photographing and filming policemen in action.

The March of Liberties (Le Marce della Libertà) departed from the Place de la République on 28 November around 2 p.m. in Paris, at the same time as in Lyon, Lille, Nantes, Rennes, Montpellier and at least a dozen other cities in France.  It is the name given to protests against the new French law on "global security”.  Particularly aimed at article 24, which prohibits photographing and filming policemen in action, protests are also against police violence in recent days, from the evacuation of migrants to the beating of the black music producer Michel Zecler. 

In Paris, more than 2,000 officers were deployed to protect streets full of stores, now crowded in the first days of reopening after lockdown.  For the police union, the deployment was insufficient given the potential risk of the demonstrations, which arrived at the Place de la Bastille. 

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At the front of the Parisian procession, on a bright sunny day in Paris, a banner was carried by family members of victims of police violence.  Upon arrival at the Bastille, a group of black blocs (protestors who wear black clothing and conceal their faces with ski masks) were waiting for the police to start the clashes.  Thrown firecrackers were met with tear gas, a car was lit on fire and a few scuffles brought charges. 

According to the Ministry of the Interior in Paris, about 46,000 demonstrators marched in Lille with the Martine Aubry syndicate in the front row, with the slogan "Liberté, égalité, filmez!” (Freedom, Liberty, Film).  In Montpellier, there were almost 5,000 people with signs with the words "Blurred Democracy". 

Clashes also occurred in Bordeaux and Lyon

Clashes between demonstrators and police also took place in Bordeaux and Lyon, where thousands of people took to the streets, as in other large French cities, to protest against the new security law, the French media reported.  In Bordeaux, several pieces of furniture were set on fire in the streets, while in Lyon a policeman and some demonstrators were reported as wounded. 

The Minister of the Interior Report

At least 37 officers were injured during clashes between demonstrators and police. This was reported on Twitter by the French Interior Minister, Gerald Darmanin.  The minister expressed "condemnation" for "the unacceptable violence against law enforcement agencies".

Article 24

Under particular scrutiny from the French people is article 24 of the bill on security (pending the vote of the Senate), which provides that it is a crime to publish images of policemen on duty with the aim of damaging their "physical or psychological integrity".  Who is found guilty of publishing such images of police, risks up to one year in prison and fines of 45,000 euros. 

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The protesters demand that the article be dismissed, because it goes against "fundamental public liberties" of democracy, and would prevent reporting brutality committed by the police.  Also targeted are articles 21 and 22, that regulate the use of drones and pedestrian cameras by law enforcement agencies. 

Not only that, but the Protest Coordination Group also calls for the withdrawal of the new "National Scheme for the Maintenance of Law and Order" which, during demonstrations, forces journalists to disperse when law enforcement agencies arrive, preventing journalists from covering subsequent events.  A collective of journalists denounced the willingness of law enforcement agencies and other institutions to claim a "right of censorship", in defiance of freedom of information, through increasingly restrictive conventions.  The French and foreign press denounced the law as "a security drift", and "violations of rights". 

"This bill aims to undermine the freedom of the press, the freedom to inform and be informed, the freedom of expression, in short, the fundamental public freedoms of our Republic", says the collective of journalists.  French Prime Minister Jean Castex announced that he will commission a committee to re-draft article 24, but then backtracked due to opposition from the police deputies. 

The bill has come to public attention in recent days, after videos were released showing police officers beating and using tear gas against a music producer of African descent, for no apparent reason. 

The police officers have been suspended and an investigation has been opened, while President Emmanuel Macron said that those videos "make us ashamed”.  This happened at a time when police violence continues to provoke protests in France, particularly after the violent evacuation of hundreds of migrants who had camped in protest in the center of Paris, in Place de la République. 

Meanwhile, the detention of four agents involved in the assault of the producer Michel Zecler has been extended by 24 hours.  The four agents have been suspended from their duties, and have been detained by France’s National Police.  An investigation has been opened for violence and forgery in public.  The violence exerted by the police against Zecler, guilty only of not wearing a mask, emerged thanks to a film published on the news site Loopsider.  The video triggered the protests of 28 November.  Three police officers are directly involved in Zecler's assault, and the fourth is detained for throwing a tear gas grenade into the music producer’s studio.

Ph: Alexandros Michailidis / Shutterstock.com

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