Yellow vests: France to crack down on unsanctioned protests

Edouard Philippe wants to toughen sanctions
Edouard Philippe wants to toughen sanctions against "thugs" and undeclared demonstrations. (TF1 screenshot)

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has announced plans to punish people who hold unsanctioned protests after seven weeks of anti-government unrest.

His government wants to draft new legislation that will ban troublemakers from protests and clamp down on the wearing of masks at demonstrations.

He said 80,000 members of the security forces would be deployed for the next expected wave of protests.

Drawing an overall assessment of the dispute, Edouard Philippe said that 5,600 people were placed in custody and some 1,000 convictions have been pronounced by the court since the beginning of the mobilization on November 17, 2018.

Protesters smashed down the gates to a government office this weekend.

What measures does the government plan to take?

Speaking on French TV channel TF1, Prime Minister Philippe said the government would support a “new law punishing those who do not respect the requirement to declare [protests], those who take part in unauthorised demonstrations and those who arrive at demonstrations wearing face masks”.

The Prime Minister has announced above all to be “in favor of a new law being adopted” in the near future, in  particular to “punish those who do not respect the obligation to declare ” demonstrations. “We must preserve the freedom to demonstrate in France and must punish those who do not respect this simple obligation,” he explained, without going into detail. Currently, citizens going to a rally incur a fine of up to 38 euros.

Edouard Philippe also targets “those who come masked” at these gatherings. ” Arriving hooded at a protest is a ticket today and tomorrow it must be a crime,” he said. 

More generally, he wants to  ban the already identified thugs , on the model of hooligans in football banned stadium. “This arrangement [adopted in the 2000s] worked well,” he said, saying the option was under consideration “for the past few months” and that a Senate proposal to do so already exists. “It can be tabled in the Assembly early February,” he said, suggesting that the government will support it.

If Edouard Philippe has not specified the modalities of this new “device”, it could go through the creation of a new file “violent individuals during the demonstrations”, as claimed by the Alliance police union. Secretary of State for the Interior, Laurent Nunez, had already mentioned this track. 

Shortly before the Prime Minister, the Minister of the Interior Christophe Castaner for his part announced a future law of orientation and programming “which will set the long-term vision of our internal security policy.”

An “operational response” next Saturday 

“We made the decision for next Saturday” to return to a “considerable” security , also warned Edouard Philippe, evoking an immediate “operational response”. This device will find its level of mid-December, namely nearly 80,000 police and gendarmes throughout France, including 5,000 in Paris , said the Prime Minister. He advocated for “an update of the national scheme of public order” by praising the success of the device adopted in Act 4, with mobile forces. “We changed the doctrine,” said Matignon’s man. In the future, ” he had to invest in new equipment, ” he said. 


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