- Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets across France on Saturday over a proposed bill that would restrict the sharing of photos and videos of police officers.
- Critics say the bill would limit press freedom, while the government says it will protect officers from online calls for violence.
- Video published on Thursday that showed police officers beating up a Black man added to the public outrage.
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Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets across France on Saturday over a proposed bill that would restrict the sharing of photos and videos of police officers.
About 46,000 people gathered in Paris in support of press freedom and against police brutality, The Associated Press reported. The events were largely peaceful, but some groups clashed with police who deployed tear gas to break up crowds that were throwing stones and setting fires.
Protests started about a week ago in response to a new bill that would make it a criminal offence to share images or videos of on-duty police officers with the intent of harming their “physical or psychological integrity.” The maximum penalty would be up to one year in prison and a $US53,000 fine.
Video published on Thursday that showed police officers beating up a Black man added to the public outrage in France, with President Emmanuel Macron calling the footage “unacceptable,” the BBC reported.
The graphic video, which was shared on social media and quickly spread, showed three officers punching and kicking a music producer named Michel Zecler, who later said the officers were also using racial slurs. Law enforcement is investigating the incident and the involved officers have been suspended.
Critics say the police security bill would limit press freedom, while the government says it would protect police officers from online calls for violence and would only apply to images shared with “clear” intent to harm an officer.
Protesters included members of the press as well as students, and were supported by Reporters Without Borders and Amnesty International France, among other civil liberty groups.
“We are not here to defend a privilege of our profession, press freedom and journalists’ freedom,” Edwy Plenel, editor of investigative French publication Mediapart, said of the protests, according to The Associated Press. “We are here to defend fundamental rights, the rights of all people.”
Protests also took place in the French cities of Bordeaux, Lille, Montpellier, Nantes, and others, the BBC reported.
While the demonstrations were largely peaceful, some protesters in Paris threw fireworks and stones at police, broke store windows, and set some cars and a cafe on fire, Reuters reported.
Demonstrators carried signs and chanted slogans, which included “Who will protect us from the police” and “Democracy bludgeoned,” according to Reuters. Demonstrators were also reportedly joined by some yellow vest protesters.
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