France to crack down on unauthorised protests

The police have at times appeared defenceless, with former heavyweight fighter Christophe Dettinger filmed landing blows on officers guarding a bridge leading to the National Assembly in Paris last Saturday. Mr Dettinger surrendered to the police the
The police have at times appeared defenceless, with former heavyweight fighter Christophe Dettinger filmed landing blows on officers guarding a bridge leading to the National Assembly in Paris last Saturday. Mr Dettinger surrendered to the police the next day.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Tough line comes amid violent 'yellow vest' protests; troublemakers may have to pay for damage caused

PARIS • French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has announced plans to ban participation in unauthorised protests as the government scrambles to try to end weeks of violent "yellow vest" rallies.

Seven weeks into a rebellion marked by weekly clashes in Paris and other French cities, Mr Philippe on Monday said the government would introduce 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".

He also announced plans to ban known "troublemakers" from taking part in protests, in the same way known football hooligans have been banned from stadiums before.

In future, Mr Philippe said, the onus would be on "the troublemakers, and not taxpayers, to pay for the damage caused" to businesses and property during the protests which began peacefully in mid-November over taxes but quickly became more radical.

Many of the "yellow vest" demonstrators are demanding that centrist President Emmanuel Macron resign, a call dismissed as undemocratic by the government.

Last Saturday, protesters used a construction vehicle to smash open the doors of the building housing the ministry of government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux.

In other scenes that caused shock, a former professional boxer was caught on camera beating up police officers.

"Those who question our institutions will not have the last word," Mr Philippe said, announcing plans to deploy 80,000 security force members nationwide.

 
 
 

The images of renewed violence and destruction in Paris last Saturday underscored the difficulty of containing a leaderless movement that appeared to be petering out at the end of last year but has since gained new momentum.

Around 50,000 "yellow vests" marched again last Saturday to denounce Mr Macron's policies, call for his resignation or demand more of a say in national law-making.

The police at times appeared defenceless, with former heavyweight fighter Christophe Dettinger filmed landing blows on officers guarding a bridge leading to the National Assembly.

Mr Dettinger, known in the ring as "The Gypsy From Massy", a town near Paris, gave himself up to the police in the capital on Monday.

In a video posted on YouTube on Sunday, he described himself as an "ordinary citizen" acting out of anger over what he called the repressive tactics of the police.

"I am a yellow vest. I have the anger of the people in me," he said.

Images of a policeman beating several protesters in the southern city of Toulon last Saturday have also been widely condemned.

The police officer - a commander who was granted France's highest award, the Legion d'Honneur, on Jan 1 - was referred to investigators after appearing to punch one protester in the face several times.

Police signalled a stricter approach last week when they arrested a protest leader, truck driver Eric Drouet, for failing to notify the authorities about a demonstration.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 09, 2019, with the headline 'France to crack down on unauthorised protests'. Print Edition | Subscribe