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News > France

French Senate Approves Anti-Riot Bill as Protests Continue

  • A protester is pushed back by police during a demonstration of the

    A protester is pushed back by police during a demonstration of the "yellow vests" movement in Nantes. | Photo: Reuters

Published 13 March 2019

The law would crack down on demonstrators that local authorities consider "a serious threat to public order".

The French Senate has voted in favor of the controversial "anti-riot" bill in the second and final reading on Tuesday, amidst the continuation of Yellow Vest protests all over the country.

France's Macron Pushes for 'Anti-Demonstration Bill' in Congress

The upper house of the nation's parliament passed the bill with 210 votes in favor and 115 against. This was the complementary approval needed as in February, the National Assembly, France’s lower house of parliament, adopted it as well by 387 votes to 92. Now its final hurdle, per the request of French President Emmanuel Macron, will be the constitutional council who is expected to examine the draft legislation for any violations to the Constitution.

However, since its first draft, the bill has stirred up controversy. French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said it is a "law for protection, for journalists, police, public, for the Republic, and its institutions".  While many critics, especially the left,  have denounced it as a tool for “liberticide”. 

“This bill will deter any peaceful demonstrators from responding to a call. Whether you want it or not, you delivering a new uppercut to the rights to protest in our country,” Senator Eliane Assassi from the French Communist Party tweeted Tuesday.

The law comes as a response to the nationwide yellow vest demonstrations that continue to mobilize thousands of protestors starting on Nov. 17, 2018, against rising fuel taxes and anti-popular policies made by the current administration.

Yellow Vests Say Macron Proposal A Distraction, Resume Protests

Some of the key issues that the document stipulates are: the authorization for police to search bags and vehicles in and around demonstration areas for possible weapons, the authority to ban people who are deemed "a serious threat to public order" from participating, and the ability to prohibit any protest in France for up to a month. Those banned will feature on a register of wanted people but only for the duration of their ban and pay a fine of US$ 8,465 or face up to six months of jail.

But most controversial is the article that would impose a US$17,000 fine and a possible one-year prison term for protesters who cover or mask wholly or partly their faces in order to avoid identification. 

Human Rights movements have denounced the legislation, including Amnesty International, who in a statement criticized the bill saying that the banning of people from demonstrations will be based on extremely vague grounds, away from judicial control. A claim that adds to the concerns of independent U.N. rights experts who have dubbed that protestors rights have been "disproportionately curtailed," especially by the use of questionable police crowd control tactics. 

Now as Senator from the Radical Movement (MR) Maryse Carrere expressed the last hope is for the “Council to purge this text of all its unconstitutionality." 

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