Dozens of rallies are planned against a new law that would restrict police picture sharing as anger mounts over the video of police beating the black man.
Dozens of rallies are planned on Saturday against a new French law aimed at restricting the sharing of pictures by police officers, just days after the country was rocked by footage of officials beating and racially abusing a black man.
The case shocked France with celebrities and politicians condemning the officials’ actions and fueled the debate over President Emmanuel Macron’s law.
Macron called the incident on Friday an “unacceptable attack” and called on the government to come up with proposals to “fight discrimination”.
One of the most controversial elements of the new law is Article 24, which would criminalize the publication of pictures of police officers on duty in order to compromise their “physical or mental integrity”.
It was passed by the National Assembly last week – despite awaiting approval from the Senate – and sparked rallies and protests across France.
The organizers of the rally demand the withdrawal of the article, claiming that it contradicts “the fundamental public freedoms of our republic”.
“This bill is intended to undermine freedom of the press, freedom of information and information and freedom of expression,” said one of the protest organizers on Saturday.
Unions are expected to join the demonstrations, and members of the “yellow vests”, whose protests, sometimes violent in 2018 and 2019, are also expected.
In Paris, authorities had asked organizers to limit the rally to a single location, but officials approved a march on Friday evening.
And in a sign that the government could prepare to withdraw, Prime Minister Jean Castex announced on Friday that he would appoint a commission to recast Article 24.
According to the article, criminals could be sentenced to up to a year in prison and fined 45,000 euros for sharing pictures of police officers.
The government says the provision is designed to protect officials from doxxing and online abuse, but critics say this is further evidence that the Macron administration is sliding to the right.
However, media unions say this could give the police the green light to prevent journalists – and social media users – from documenting abuses.
They refer to the case of music producer Michel Zecler, whose racist abuse and beatings by police were recorded by CCTV and later published online, causing widespread criticism of the officers’ actions.
In another case, journalists on the ground in a French migrant camp observed and recorded police brutality on Monday during the evacuation of the Paris area.
In a letter from the AFP news agency, Paris police chief Didier Lallement wrote to the officials before the demonstration on Saturday: “In the coming days, in the coming weeks … you will undoubtedly encounter difficulties, doubts, even anger and fear.”
But he insisted that he could count on “the integrity, sense of honor and ethics” of the troops.
Protests against police brutality have taken place elsewhere in the country.
In the southern city of Toulouse, protesters took to the streets on Friday evening and waved posters with slogans such as “Police everywhere, justice nowhere”.
In West Nantes, police announced that around 3,500 people had gathered, while organizers put the crowd at 6,000 to 7,000.