French Parliament Passes Controversial Anti-Riot Bill
In the wake of the three-month-long Yellow Vest protests, French lawmakers passed a controversial law on February 5 that would effectively allow security forces to ban certain individuals from protesting.
In the wake of the Yellow Vest protests that have been raging through the entire country over the past three months, France decided to crack down on what it deems “violent” protests by passing a highly controversial bill.
According to France 24, the French National Assembly approved a bill on February 5 that effectively allows the country’s security forces to issue so-called “protest bans.” The law would allow administrative authorities to issue protest bans against certain individuals that they consider to be a serious threat to public order.
The new law was reportedly inspired by legislation used to crack down on football hooligans and will call for a six-month prison sentence and a €7,500 fine for violators. Demonstrators found covering their faces in order to avoid being identified could face a one-year prison sentence, along with a fine of €15,000. Until Tuesday, oversight from a judge was needed in order to ban individuals from participating in certain public gatherings.
Despite the fact that it was approved by the lower house of the parliament by 387 votes to 92, the bill’s opponents have been very vocal. Even Emmanuel Macron’s own La République En Marche (LREM) party has criticized the bill, calling it an infringement of the freedom to protest. Almost 50 members of the party have abstained from the vote, which is an unprecedented occurrence for legislation that is backed by the government.
Charles de Courson, a centrist lawmaker, called the new bill “the return of the Vichy regime,” referring to the French government that collaborated with Germany during World War II.
Proponents of the bill, however, were stern in their positions and are defending the bill as a necessary precaution. Before the vote took place, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said that the law “ensures the protection of individual freedoms and affirms the freedom to demonstrate.” Castaner also denied accusations that the bill was a “freedom killer,” arguing that it was needed in response to “a handful of hooligans who threaten our right to demonstrate.”
Following the vote, the legislation will move to the Senate for discussion and is expected to return to the upper house of the parliament on March 12.
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