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‘Screw with liberty at your peril!’ Macron humiliated into dropping security bill after protest mayhem goes viral

Video of French police teargassing and brawling with protesters over a controversial plan to outlaw filming of officers on duty goes viral to a global audience and sees President Macron humiliated into ditching the proposed law.

If ever President Macron needed a reason to back down over his proposed global security law making it an offence to film policemen on duty, the weekend’s mayhem on the streets of France where protesters were teargassed as they fought back against heavily armoured riot police was enough to change his mind.

The draft bill, passed just last Tuesday, is now dead. And it’s back to the drawing board for Macron and his team after another hugely embarrassing climbdown. 

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This followed the release of CCTV footage shot in a black music producer’s studio as a gang of feral police laid into him with fists and truncheons after he’d been seen on the street without a face mask. It ends with the policemen throwing tear gas canisters through the studio windows to flush out Michel Zecler so they can arrest him. So far, the video has been viewed 14 million times.

That is not a good look for a French government trying to push through a law that would allow police to go about their business without fear of being caught on camera doing something let’s say, less than discreet.

In his effort to defuse the anger, the “shocked” president took to Facebook saying, “The images we have all seen of the aggression against Michel Zecler are unacceptable, they are shameful for all of us. France should never allow violence or brutality, no matter who it comes from. France should never let hate or racism prosper.” So he’s made his view clear. Now, were the police listening?

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Investigation opened into footage of Paris police fiercely beating black man (VIDEO)

Because just a day later, many were filmed on smartphones again as they laid siege among the crowds of protesters in Paris, Lille, Montpelier, Strasbourg, Bordeaux and elsewhere across the country. Some had clearly not received the Macron memo.

And they were not having things all their own way. Protesters set cars and buildings alight, shot fireworks into the police ranks and caused mayhem as officers fought to restore order. You can see it for yourself, because so much of it was caught on film.

The lesson here is that if you try to impose your will on the general population, you can guarantee the people will do the opposite of what you want. Macron’s problem seems to be that the police act the same way.

To them tear gas is the go-to tool for dealing with the public. And if that doesn’t work, try beating a few protesters over the head with a truncheon, bust a few noses and drag them along by their feet to be flung into waiting vans. Asylum seekers and their makeshift camps? Same playbook.

It just looks so goddamned dreadful when broadcast on television. But elsewhere around the world these are familiar scenes, and without meaning to point a finger, I’m looking at you USA.

Sure enough, stateside the media lapped up this French-flavoured police brutality taking place far away from the streets of Portland or Minneapolis.

French protesters decry bill outlawing use of police images,” reported the dry-as-dirt Washington Post while the drama was increased in the New York Times with,  ‘4 Officers in France Are Charged Over Beating of a Black Man’.  Even the West Coast took an interest with the LA Times headline reading, ‘Proposed limits on filming police spark uproar in France’. Mind you that august journal also found space to cover the rescue of the ‘world’s loneliest elephant’ as it arrived in Cambodia with the help of pop singer Cher.

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Cars burn during a demonstration against the so-called Global Security Bill in Paris, France, November 28, 2020
Paris protesters torch cars, set BANK on fire amid clashes over bill slammed as ‘ban on filming police brutality’ (VIDEOS)

Anyway, what this showed Macron, is that his little difficulty with mischief-making ‘citoyens’ filming police misbehaving had become something of a global embarrassment. He had to act quick, and that meant sending out a colleague to tell the world’s press that the proposed law, after due consideration, was now being pulled.

While the government says it plans to rework the controversial bill at the centre of the protests, it’s now unlikely that anything like it will ever be passed by anywhere near the numbers required in the French parliament.

For the French president, it’s been a difficult year. The pandemic has been bookended now by two embarrassing U-turns. The first was his decision to park his much-heralded pension reforms and the second, well, it’s the omnishambles of the past seven days.

Those protest cries of “Liberty, liberty, liberty!” heard at the weekend are taken very seriously in France by the people and the politicians.

You screw with liberty at your peril, as President Macron has just been reminded.

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