Across France, thousands of people took to the streets yesterday for the 3rd Saturday in a row to protest the government’s planned security law. After heavy rioting on the previous two weekends, the demonstrations in the capital Paris and other cities were largely peaceful this time.
According to union sources, 3,000 security forces were deployed in Paris, about 50 percent more than the week before, when there were serious clashes between violent demonstrators and police officers. According to Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, more than 140 demonstrators were arrested.
In Lyon, where according to authorities around 2,000 demonstrators took part in the protests, security forces used tear gas. Smaller rallies were also held in Montpellier with 1800 demonstrators, Strasbourg, Lille, Bordeaux, Toulouse and Marseille. According to its own statements, the government of President Emmanuel Macron wants to use the law to better protect the emergency forces. Critics, however, fear a massive restriction of press freedom and argue that in the past many cases of police violence would have gone unpunished if they had not been filmed and disseminated on the Internet.
Macron’s tweets are not enough
Since the videos of police violence became public, France’s government, and in particular Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin as the top police official, has been under pressure. Many protesters demanded his resignation on their placards.
Paris police prefect Didier Lallement is also under criticism. “The minimum we have to demand after the attack on the music producer is the resignation of the Paris police prefect,” says former Socialist presidential candidate Benoit Hamon, but there is more to it than that. “It’s complete chaos, and the president responds with a few tweets. He calls the attack on the music producer shameful. He says it cannot be that a man is beaten by police officers. But tweets are not enough.”
Riots in Paris and Rennes
Macron had commented on the incident in a long post on social networks. He said the government must quickly present proposals on how to restore trust between citizens and the police. Macron made clear in his post that he condemned all forms of violence and brutality: by, but also against police officers.
In Paris and Rennes, there were riots between police and demo participants towards the end of the demonstration. In Paris, police used tear gas against demonstrators who erected barricades and threw stones at police officers. In Bastille Square, demonstrators set fire to a newsstand, the entrance to a building of the French Central Bank and a neighboring brasserie. Cars also burned in the area. Several protesters were arrested.
Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin condemned the riots. The attacks on police officers at the rallies were unacceptable, he wrote on Twitter. He said 37 officers were injured, 23 of them in Paris. The organizing alliance distanced itself from violent participants in the protests and condemned the attacks on police officers.
The controversial Article 24 of the draft law makes it illegal to publish images of police officers, and defendants are punishable by a one-year prison sentence or a fine of 45,000 euros. (dpa, DW)
by Xavier Cuesta – European Correspondent