French PM announces new law on violent protests

The French government is to introduce a new law against violent protesters, and is to increase police numbers ahead of this weekend’s expected gilets jaunes movement, it has announced.

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Prime Minister Edouard Philippe confirmed that 80,000 police officers and gendarmes would be mobilised across France this Saturday (January 12), of which almost 5,000 will be in Paris.

He also explained that a new law - modelled on existing laws against “hooliganism” - would be introduced against so-called “casseurs”: people who show up at protests simply to provoke violence, and smash up streets.

Those who show up unauthorised, or who cover their face, will be punished, and may even be required to pay for the damage they inflict.

The law is expected to be debated by the Assemblée Nationale in early February.

The PM explained that there would also be harsher sanctions for those who organise protests without the proper permission.

He said: “We must protect people’s freedom to protest in France, and punish those who want to infringe upon that right. Those who threaten our institutions will not have the last word.”

He said that last weekend, one protest in Paris had been properly declared, and passed without incident. The second protest was not declared, and descended into violence and damage.

Mr Philippe added that 5,600 people had been taken into police custody, and 1,000 people charged in court, since the beginning of the gilets jaunes movement on November 17, 2018.

The government measures come as a former non-violent gilet jaune protester and leader, Jacline Mouraud, has announced her plans to launch a brand new political party, "Les Emergents".

The party, which is in the process of being formalised legally, will lobby for “significant fiscal reform” and “put social issues back on the table”, while being anti-violent and pro-French institutions.

Ms Mouraud has no concrete plans to put herself as leader of the party, but said that she believed it would receive some votes, whoever goes on to become leader.

She said: “Like any party, it will get votes. [But] it’s the fact that it exists. It’s about bringing together people who are against violence and who have respect for our institutions.”

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