The freedom to demonstrate, the right to protect

In a single draft of eight articles, Emmanuel Macron has created the enterprise of cracking his parliamentary majority, disorienting some of his supporters and federating against him all that the country has defenders of civil liberties. Voted in first reading by the National Assembly on February 5th, the text officially aimed at "strengthening and guaranteeing the maintenance of public order during the demonstrations" will have to return to the Senate starting from March 12th. Article 2 provides that the prefect (and not an independent judge) may ban any person who constitutes "a threat of particular gravity to public order". When there are "serious reasons to believe that the person mentioned (…) can participate in any other concurrent event on the national territory or a series of events", the prefect could "forbid him to take part in any event throughout the national territory. "for up to a month. Nicolas Krameyer, head of the Amnesty International Freedom Program, summarizes in more crude terms: "It is no longer the justice that will say:" This person is a danger in the demonstration. "But it is the relay of the executive power that will be able to decide to forbid a person to demonstrate, it is a very clear open door to arbitrariness. "(Euronews, 6 February)

There is no need for a crystal ball to decipher the hidden intentions of Emmanuel Macron: by hardening the tone, he tries to embody the defense of public order against the "violence" of the road to gather rumors in the right electorate. The text voted on February 5 is largely inspired by a bill presented in June 2018 by Bruno Retailleau, president of the LR group in the Senate. If it came into force, it would create a dangerous precedent. "This would be the first time that an administrative authority would be authorized to issue a ban on demonstrations in" peacetime "or out of the state of emergency, says researcher Vanessa Codaccioni, a specialist in criminal justice. Anti-strike law of 1970, approved to suppress the Maoist protests (and abolished by the left in 1981), but this law did not provide for such a ban The true filiation of the current text must be sought by the part of the state of emergency, voted in November 2015 after the Bataclan attacks, it is about integrating exceptions in common law. "

Between November 2015 and May 2017, nearly 700 bans on demonstrations were pronounced by the prefects, focusing primarily on environmental activists and the extreme left. What could the new law do? Vanessa Codaccioni puts forward a hypothesis: "It could be widely used around May 1, to prevent some people from demonstrating." We must not forget that Bruno Retailleau originally presented his text following the violence of May 1, 2017. "

More than 9,000 shots of LBD

The concern of the defenders of civil liberties is explained all the better because this proposal comes in a context of greater police repression. Since the start of the movement of the yellow jackets, more than 9,200 shots of LBD have been counted (defensive ball launchers, similar to Flash Ball), and the images of the protesters are unleashing in the media. It is also an obstacle for more experienced professionals of the order. "This figure of 9,000 hits is enormous, incomprehensible, notes Bertrand Cavallier, general retired Gendarmeria.The probability that all these shots have been made in the safety rules is extremely low.Size of precision, it is not the CRS that makes the most use of LBD, but fast detachment (DAR) .These units (including BAC police officers – Ed) are not fully trained in the police.They play an increasingly important role on the ground.â € I saw it myself during a demonstration in January on the Champs-Élysées. "

End of the doctrine of "zero deaths"

The use of the power of these units to the easy trigger is probably part of a change in the police doctrine that began about fifteen years ago and has since been accentuated, with the risk of isolating France from the European scene. "Until the early 2000s, there was a desire rather to appease," said Christian Mouhanna, president of Cesdip (Center for Sociological Research on Law and Criminal Institutions). "Governments wanted to put an end to tragedies of the previous period: it is, for example, the prohibition of the voltigeurs (policemen in motion armed with batons) after the death of Malik Oussekine (demonstrator killed by the police in Paris during the night of December 6, 1986). "He not only obeyed humanitarian concerns, but also limited the number of martyrs!"

A power that refuses to negotiate

This page is slowly turning towards the mid-2000s, under the era of Nicolas Sarkozy, in a scenario of blurring traditional references between the fight against urban violence and the management of demonstrations. The logic of the fight takes precedence over everything else. "In recent years, we see governments systematically showing their refusal to negotiate with the road," said Christian Mouhanna. What is valid with the yellow jackets was also with the opponents of the labor law. The message could be summarized as follows: "You can demonstrate how much you want, we will not move a comma".

This "firmness" of abundantly staged power is accompanied by a growing use of "non-lethal" weapons with devastating effects (defending throwers, grenades, etc.), banished from the police pan almost anywhere in Europe. To the point that, today, no one would dream of boasting of French excellence in the forces of order, based in principle on a gradual use of force and on the desire to "downsize". "The French specificity from November 2018, is above all the number of serious injuries in the streets, squeaks Fabien Jobard, CNRS researcher .All abroad, all the specialists in the field – be they researchers or police officers – watch what is happening in France with eyes wide open. "

Macron illiteracy

A lawyer specializing in civil liberties, Aline Daillère emphasizes: "The maintenance of order in France, which prevailed above all in the years 1980-1990, was exported a lot to foreign countries and was a model, but today it is no longer the case. The massive use of LBD or destructive grenades is totally counterproductive because it only tends to lengthen the situation In the longer term, this threatens to increase the gap between the population and the police.Many yellow jackets had never participated in a demonstration before the last year and were unaware of the dangerous nature of the weapons used by the police.They are developing a sense of hostility – to say the least – against the police. "

Between the excessive use of weapons banned elsewhere and the proposed liberticidal law, will France end up taking the leading group of European "democracies" more hostile to the protests? "It's hard to be categorical on the subject," says Thomas Perroud, a comparative public law researcher, "because the shrinking public space has become widespread in Europe for several years." This is an underlying trend of the United States, which is It was a forerunner in this sector, but there is a French specificity: the prohibition of proving a priori, contained in the anti-rupture proposal, would give the prefect, therefore, considerable political power, a "specificity" that union activists, and more generally the defenders of civil liberties would do well …