Almost 150 arrested at Paris protest against security bill

The anger over the legislation is amplifiying

Paris police have taken nearly 150 people into custody in what quickly became a tense protest against proposed security laws, with officers wading into the crowds of several thousand to haul away suspected troublemakers.

On Saturday, police targeted protesters they suspected might coalesce together into violent groups like those who vandalised stores and vehicles and attacked officers at previous demonstrations. Hence, long lines of riot officers and police vehicles with blue lights flashing escorted Saturday’s march through rain-slickened streets. They hemmed in protesters, seeking to prevent a flare-up of violence. A police water cannon doused demonstrators at the end of the march, as night fell. In the end, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said police had detained 142 people.

Thousands of marchers were protesting against a proposed security law that has sparked successive weekends of demonstrations and against a draft law aimed at combating “radicalism”.

The security bill’s most contested measure could make it more difficult to film police officers. It aims to outlaw the publication of images with the intent to cause harm to police. However, critics fear the security bill, which has been adopted by the lower house of parliament, could erode media freedom and make it more difficult to expose police brutality.

Footage of white police beating up an unarmed Black music producer in his Paris studio on 21 November amplified anger over the legislation, widely seen as signalling a rightward lurch by President Emmanuel Macron. Other incidents caught on camera have shown police in Paris using violence to tear down a migrant camp.

In the face of mounting protests, Macron’s ruling LREM party announced it would rewrite the bill’s controversial Article 24, dealing with filming the police. But the announcement fell short of the mark for left-wing protesters and rights groups, who are demanding that the law be completely withdrawn.

Slogans on placards carried by marchers in Paris said on Saturday “I will never stop filming” and “Camera equals mutilation?” There were also protests in other cities. In Lyon, in the southeast, authorities reported five arrests among people they said attacked police and sought to loot shops. In scenes reminiscent of the “yellow vest” anti-government protests of late 2018 and early 2019, shop windows were smashed and vehicles set alight last week in Paris as small groups of demonstrators clashed with police.

Recurring allegations of racism and brutality against the police have become a big headache for Macron. In a letter to a police union leader on Monday, he announced plans for a summit in January on how to improve relations between the police and communities.

“There is urgent need to act,” Macron said in the letter to the Unite-SGP-FO police union, adding that the summit would also address the police’s long-standing complaints over working conditions.

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