PARIS – Thousands of criticism of a security bill that would restrict the sharing of images of police officers in France gathered across the country in protest on Saturday, while Parisian officers have been urged to behave in such a way responsible during protests following footage of police using violence going public.
Dozens of rallies against a provision in the law that would criminalize the publication of photos or videos of police officers on duty with the intention of harming their “physical or psychological integrity”. Civil liberties groups and journalists fear the measure will hamper press freedom and allow police brutality to go unnoticed and unpunished.
In Paris, several thousand people invaded the vast Place de la République and the surrounding streets carrying red union flags, French tricolor flags and homemade signs denouncing police violence, demanding freedom of the media or calling for the resignation of the minister of the Interior Gérald Darmanin.
The crowd included journalists, journalism students, left-wing activists, migrant rights groups and politically-minded citizens expressing their anger at what they perceive to be increasingly harsh police tactics. in recent years, especially since the protest movement of the French yellow vests against the economic difficulties in 2018.
Many protesters, police and journalists have been injured in protests in recent years, including several Associated Press journalists.
“There have been all these demonstrations this summer against police violence, and this law shows that the government has not heard us… It is impunity. That’s what makes us angry, ”said protest participant Kenza Berkane, 26.
Berkane, who is French and of North African descent, said she was repeatedly arrested by police for identity checks on the metro or while going to school. while white friends were allowed to pass. “We wonder when this will end?
The cause has taken on renewed importance in recent days after the broadcast of images of French police beating a black man, triggering a national outcry.
French President Emmanuel Macron spoke out against the video footage on Friday, saying “they shame us”.
The video which surfaced Thursday showed the beating, a few days earlier, of music producer Michel Zecler, following footage of the brutal evacuation by police on Tuesday of migrants in a Parisian square. Officers implicated in Zecler’s beating have been suspended pending an internal police investigation.
An internal letter from the Paris police prefect, Didier Lallement, called on the police to use “probity, a sense of honor and ethics” during police demonstrations, which have been authorized by the authorities. An Associated Press reporter at the protest in Paris saw police hanging from side streets.
Section 24 of the Security Bill criminalizes posting images of police officers with intent to cause harm. Anyone found guilty could be sentenced to one year in prison and a fine of 45,000 euros ($ 53,000).
While journalists have been most candid about the security bill, it could have an even greater impact on the efforts of non-journalists who film police during aggressive arrests, especially minorities who may try to fight against police abuse and discrimination with seconds of cell phone. video.
Protesters calling for the article to be withdrawn say it goes against “fundamental public freedoms” of their democracy.
Agathe Le Gall, a 26-year-old job seeker, said the proposal “is like the beginning of the end” because she fears the laws will get harsher and harder.
“All these videos that we see online, we know that behind these incidents there are thousands more that are not recorded,” Agathe said on Saturday. “I’m lucky, I’m white because I’m not targeted” by the police.
Prime Minister Jean Castex on Friday announced he would appoint a committee to reformulate Article 24, but backed down after hearing angry lawmakers. The committee is now expected to make new proposals by early next year on media-police relations.