At least 81 people were arrested as mass protests and riots broke out on the streets of Paris against a proposed law that would criminalise the filming of police in France.
Thousands of people protested throughout the country on Saturday, with the Ministry of the Interior claiming some 130,000 protested in around 70 French cities. The organisers of the demonstrations, the StopLoiS SécuritéGlobale, claimed that as many as 500,000 people turned out across the country.
Protesters were seen carrying signs reading: “Who will protect us from the ferocious of order?” and “Lower your weapons, we will lower our cameras”, according to Le Parisien. Protesters were also seen carrying the images of politicians who supported the proposed restrictions.
The proposed security law, which was adopted at first reading by the National Assembly in France on Tuesday, would see those found guilty facing up to a year in prison or be subject to a €45,000 (£40,000).
The government has argued that the new law will not impede upon freedom of the press or the ability of the public to film officers, and went on to amend the original bill to specify that it “will only target the dissemination of images clearly aimed at harming a police officer’s or soldier’s physical or psychological integrity” — but opponents believe the bill’s remit is too vague.
While most of the marches were peaceful, violence broke out in Paris, as protesters were seen launching projectiles, Molotov cocktails, and fireworks at police, who in turn were seen blasting water cannons and using their batons to break up the crowds. Rioters were also seen setting cars on fire and breaking shop windows.
In total, some 61 police officers were injured, with 23 injured in Paris and a further 39 being injured outside of the capital, Le Figaro reported.
The French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin condemned the “unacceptable violence against the police”.
The president of Emannuel Macron’s liberal La République En Marche! party in the National Assembly, Christophe Castaner, added: “Those who lynch our police forces are far from defending our freedoms. They are trampling on them.”
The heightened tensions in France were also in response to a viral video of French police beating a black music producer — leading to the suspension of three officers — as well as police breaking up a makeshift illegal migrant camp in Paris earlier this week.
Demonstrators claimed that under the new restrictions the videos of police brutality would not have been made public.
The organisers of the protest, StopLoiS SécuritéGlobale coalition, which is comprised of human rights organisations, journalists, and trade unions, told Le Monde: “It is the people of freedom who marched throughout France to tell the government that they do not want its ‘global security’ law… that they want to be able to film and broadcast the interventions of the police.”