More than 100,000 people came out this Saturday in France to protest against the Global Security law promoted by the Government of Emmanuel Macron, especially due to the controversial article 24 that plans to limit the dissemination of images of law enforcement officers. The most massive protest took place in Paris, where some violent incidents caused by small groups of the extreme left overshadowed the end of a “march for freedoms” called by journalists, opposition politicians and human rights organizations that, despite everything, was mostly peaceful.
According to the Interior Ministry, 133,000 people demonstrated throughout the country. The organizers put the attendance at half a million people. In Paris alone, at least 46,000 marched, according to official figures. Other demonstrations with strong participation were those in cities such as Marseille, Montpellier, Rennes or Lille, a week after more minority mobilizations for the same reason. The Parisian call was the most attended and, also, the one that registered some episodes of violence that caused the police to dissolve the end of the demonstration with tear gas and water trucks. Around fifty people were arrested in the French capital for confronting the agents and setting fire to vehicles, street furniture and even some commercial premises, including an office of the Bank of France. The Interior Minister and main promoter of the controversial rule, Gérald Darmanin, reported that at least 37 officers had been injured, in a new sample, he said, of "unacceptable violence against law enforcement agencies."
The conditions for a massive protest were in place. Saturday dawned cool, but sunny and it was also the first day of "lightening" of the national confinement, with the reopening of shops and the extension of the permission to leave for three hours and up to 20 kilometers from the home. But most of all, indignation boiled over. The French have lived in recent days a "consternation" shared even by Macron himself, after a succession of cases of police violence uncovered by camera recordings that have given more arguments than ever against those who claim that the regulations approved this week in the first Reading in the National Assembly is "liberticidal" and will favor police impunity. After the violent dismantling on Monday of an immigrant camp in the central square of the Republic of Paris – the starting point this Saturday of the capital's demonstration -, on Thursday the brutal beating that several agents gave to Michel Zecler, a music producer black. The incident was recorded by a security camera and by neighbors. The most controversial article of the law is article 24, which provides penalties of up to one year in prison and a 45,000 euro fine for disseminating images of police or gendarmes with the intention of harming them.
“France is the country of human rights and it is normal for the police to be protected, but to overprotect them to the detriment of the population cannot be. This law is bad, ”explained Alexandre, a twenty-something who participated in the Paris protest with an interracial group of friends. "The problem of racism has always been there, but I see that more and more people, not just blacks, are aware of the situation, people of all social strata and ages," commented Césaire, a young black man. who has just finished his studies and is looking for his first job.
“It is not normal that we are afraid of the police, even I, who am white and a woman, have it,” said Lucie Lafargie, a teenager who demonstrated with her two sisters and her parents. “In a democracy, there is nothing more undemocratic than preventing filming. With George Floyd we saw the importance of recording "the police, said his mother, Marie, who said she felt" disgusted "by the scenes of police racism that have been reported in the country in recent months.
The March for Freedoms had been convened by the Committee Stop the Global Security Law, made up of unions, journalists' associations and human rights organizations, among others. “Without images released by civil society, police violence will go unpunished. We do not want a society where the State can see with drones and pedestrian cameras without being seen, ”says its manifesto.
The Parisian procession ran from the Place de la République to that of the Bastille, where the main incidents were recorded. The capital's demonstration was attended by representatives of trade unions and journalistic organizations, such as Reporters Without Borders, as well as those responsible for the main left-wing parties, from the socialist Olivier Faure, who marched together with the leader of the environmentalists, Yannick Jadot, to the leader of France Insoumise, Jean-Luc Mélenchon or the former socialist presidential candidate Benoît Hamon. Faure denounced the "growing gap" between the police and a part of society, in which "the Government has a strong responsibility." "Article 24 of the Global Security Law has given a signal of impunity to violent policemen," he lamented, and demanded the withdrawal of "all liberticidal articles" from the controversial regulations. Mélenchon called for a "re-founding of the police (…) to rebuild bonds of trust with society."
Both Article 24 and the rest of the rule have already undergone various modifications before its approval on Monday thanks to the macronist majority in the National Assembly. The images of the beating of music producer Zecler, released last Thursday, have nevertheless caused a strong storm within the Government, whose response, proposing an independent commission to redraft article 24 of the law, has failed to calm the spirits of the country, as demonstrated by the demonstrations on Saturday. In addition, it has caused a political crisis that has confronted the Executive even with its deputies, very hurt, like other parliamentarians, by the "short circuit" they feel was the proposal that a non-parliamentary commission review a legal text that is being worked on still by the legislative branch. Finally, Prime Minister Jean Castex had to back down on Friday and ensure that the commission will not rewrite the law, despite which political unrest has not dissipated either.