Protesters across France have demonstrated for rallies against a controversial public safety bill, according to which filming a policeman on duty can result in a hefty fine. Critics say this promotes impunity for misconduct.
The protests were organized in many major French cities, including Paris, Marseille, Lyon, Brest and Nice, with thousands of participants despite concerns of Covid-19. The main event takes place on the Place de la République in the capital.
Protesters are expressing their anger at a public security bill, which was approved by the lower house of parliament this week. Clause 24 of the bill prohibits filming police officers on duty with the intent to harm them. Lawmakers who voted for the bill are among the officials who have been shamed by the protesters.
The rationale behind this provision, which introduces a fine of € 45,000 ($ 53,450) or even a one-year jail term, is that force members must be protected from doxxing and online harassment. Critics say it restricts journalistic freedoms and would be used to intimidate people who want to speak out against police brutality and other forms of misconduct.
The protests were organized by the unions, but they have many supporters. The yellow vests movement, triggered by growing social and economic inequalities and which for months remained a major problem for President Emmanuel Macron, is one of them.
There is also a component of racism in why the proposed law has aroused so much anger. Police abuse of people of color has become more visible with the spread of cell phones with good cameras and social media.
One such incident, which was filmed on CCTV rather than a personal device, went viral this week after the footage was leaked online. It showed that French police racially beat and abused a black man, apparently for not wearing a face mask.
Police were also criticized for their harsh tactics when cleaning up a migrant camp in central Paris earlier this week.
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