Emmanuel Macron SCRAMBLES for control as Yellow Vest protestors plot WEEKEND OF CHAOS | World | News



This weekend will mark the 12th straight Saturday of anti-government protests by yellow vests, who complain that the centrist government is insensitive to their needs and demands. The draft law will see protesters who “voluntarily mask their faces” fined up to £13,000 and handed a one-year prison sentence. The provision stipulates that it will be up to the person charged to prove to judges that they did not intend to commit a violent act, and give a “legitimate reason” for covering their face.

French MPs began debating the anti-violence bill earlier this week, which is designed to crack down on the sort of urban violence that has tainted the movement since it started more than two months ago.

But the new law has already sparked criticism among opposition MPs – and even within President Emmanuel Macron’s own centrist movement –, who say the draft bill will encroach on “civil liberties”.

Far-left MPs of the opposition La France Insoumise party slammed the ban on face covering as “arbitrary,” while Socialists said it was “unenforceable”.

While condemning worsening protest violence, the habitually-hardline far-right Rassemblement national (RN) party also poured scorn on the ban.

Rar-right MEP Nicolas Bay, an RN spokesman, told France 2 television: “We are not in favour of this law, which is being hastily implemented in a moment of panic.

“The pretext of security cannot be used to curb civil liberties,” he continued.

Presenting the bill to parliament ahead of the debate kick-off on Tuesday, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said it was needed to tackle the disorder and sanction the “brutes” who have caused widespread damage in Paris and other big cities.

He told lawmakers: “These brutes are threatening, targeting and attacking. They are in Paris, degrading the symbols of the Republic. They are everywhere in France, and only listen to their hunger for chaos.”

The new bill will also sanction those who do not respect the obligation to declare protests and those who take part in undeclared protests. It has been modelled on existing legislation against football hooligans whereby violent supporters can be banned from stadiums. It could be introduced in the coming weeks.

Announcing the draft law earlier this month, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe told TF1 television that the protests had led to unacceptable violence.

He said: “In many towns in France, demonstrations have been peaceful. But we cannot accept some people taking advantage of the unrest to cross the line, break things and set things on fire.

The yellow vest movement – so-called because of the high-visibility safety jackets all French motorists must carry – began in November as a peaceful protest against rising fuel taxes, but quickly morphed into a wider revolt against the government’s economic policies and alleged indifference to the everyday struggles of ordinary citizens.

Officials say around 1,900 protestors and 1,200 police have been injured in the protests.

Yellow vests have vowed to continue their high-profile anti-Macron campaign despite the government’s efforts to appease them via a string of conciliatory measures, which include a nationwide policy debate and a 100-euro (£87) increase in the minimum wage.

Saturday’s ‘Act 12’ will be a rally to honour victims of protest violence, Eric Drouet, one of the leading public figures in the citizen-led revolt, told France’s RMC radio on Wednesday.

We “condemn” the violent acts committed against protesters, he said, adding that there had been “many more serious” casualties reported among yellow vests than among riot police.

Most people have been hit by grenade debris or rubber bullets, while others have been beaten up. Eleven people have died in the protests, most in traffic accidents caused by yellow vest roadblocks.


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