French Police Union Chief Says Anti-Riot Bill Mere 'Demagogy' To Disguise Inaction
MOSCOW (UrduPoint News / Sputnik - 16th March, 2019) The recent French Senate-approved "anti-riot" bill will bring nothing in terms of security as it is merely "demagogy" which is designed to make French people think that the authorities are actually doing something against violent protesters, Michel Thooris, secretary general of the French Police Labor Union told Sputnik on Friday.
On Tuesday the French Senate, the upper house of the parliament, passed the so-called "anti-hooligan" bill. The legislation which has already received backing from the National Assembly, France's lower house, is viewed a response to the violence that repeatedly marred the nationwide yellow vest rallies. The protests often resulted in numerous injuries both among police and protesters.
Yet Thooris believes that the law will "bring nothing in terms of security."
"The new law will not change anything, it's a demagogy aimed to make the French believe that the government is doing something against the violent protesters. But in fact nothing concrete is being done," he stressed.
PUNISHMENT FOR VIOLENT RIOTERS 'EXTREMELY WEAK'
Thooris recalled that since the start of the sweeping yellow vest protests in mid-November, punishment against the violent rioters was "extremely weak."
"It's not a legislation problem, it's a problem of justice, which does not convict the members of 'black blocs' or extreme-left who burn cars and attack police. So it's not a problem of law, it's a problem of court rulings," he concluded.
By "black blocs" Thooris was referring to a special tactic by protesters to wear black clothing and face-covering masks aimed to conceal their identities.
He argued that some rioters sneak into yellow vest protests not because they support the cause, but because they seize the opportunity to incite violence.
"Those individuals are very well known to the police services, they are all identified, they were all at least once arrested for damage caused during manifestations. But the problem is they were not convicted or were punished very little. So it's a problem of sanctions against violent protesters who benefit from impunity in a way," he stressed.
LAW WILL HELP UNDERMINE YELLOW VEST MOVEMENT
With the new law President Emmanuel Macron's administration will merely reduce the symbolism of the whole yellow vest movement, which has drawn thousands of protesters, according to the police union high-ranking official.
Started as protests against fuel tax hikes, the demonstrations grew into a large-scale movement with its own ideologies. Even after the government surrendered to the protesters' demands and abandoned fuel tax rise, people continued flooding the streets, demanding an increase in wages, higher pensions and even the resignation of Emmanuel Macron, whom the protesters repeatedly dubbed as "the president of the rich."
"Macron does not want to respond, does not want to change his politics, to hear the demands of the yellow vests. What he does is helping undermine this social movement," Thooris stated, suggesting that the government tries to bring the yellow vest rallies down "to the opposition between violent protesters and police."
"Public freedoms are important and we as policemen are there to defend them, though we will not accept that our colleagues are assaulted. But we cannot use it, the French government could not use the actions of some violent rioters to profit from it and flag the demonstrators who had nothing to do with them and took to streets simply to demand better living conditions, because there are a lot of French now who are suffering from bad social conditions," he said.
One of the most controversial aspects of the bill is the right of local authorities to bar anyone who represents "a serious threat to public order" from joining demonstrations. Those who committed violent acts, injured people or damaged property during previous rallies might be banned from attending similar events in the future. Violations would result in a fine or six months in jail.
The legislation largely polarized the French society, triggering waves of discussions. While Interior Minister Christophe Castaner hailed the "law for protection, for journalists, police, public, for the Republic, and its institutions," the critics branded it as a tool for "liberticide," fearing that the legislation could severely curb civil liberties.