Over 300,000 people demonstrated across France on Saturday against the government’s proposed global security law. Some estimates suggested it was half a million.
The massive turnout took place despite coronavirus restrictions. Marchers poured on to the streets in Paris, Marseille, Pau, Rennes, Bordeaux, Lyon, Lille, Nantes, Strasbourg and dozens of other cities and towns.
The revolutionary socialist NPA party said it was “a huge awakening after months of political confinement”. “There were many young people on the protests—school students, university students, young people from working class neighbourhoods,” it said.
“They are in revolt against police violence, racism and more generally the situation we are currently going through.”
Police attacked the Paris march with tear gas and baton charges. In response, protesters defended themselves against the cops and set light to a Banque de France office and a BMW luxury car showroom.
The government’s global security law wants to create a new criminal offence of publishing images of police officers “with the aim of damaging their physical or psychological integrity”.This would include images of police acting violently against protesters such as the Yellow Vests and anti-racist demonstrators.
Offenders would face a maximum penalty of up to one year in prison and a £40,000 fine.
Cops would also be free to use drones with facial recognition technology to monitor protest marches.
And there are harsh restrictions on journalists.
At the same time, in a separate education bill, the government wants to criminalise university protests, especially blockades and occupations. Offenders would face three years in jail.
There were marches against the new laws last Saturday. But they were much bigger this week because of two horrendous examples of precisely the police violence the state wants to cover up.
A video, now viewed more than 20 million times on the web, showed police violently assaulting a black music producer.
Michel Zecler went to his recording studio in Paris last Saturday evening. He was said to be not wearing a mask as is required under pandemic laws.
Presumably using this pretext, the police entered the building without warning and attacked him over a period of 20 minutes. “The violence goes on and on, it’s unbearable, it’s outrageous,” anti-racist activist Edouard told Socialist Worker.
The police kicked Michel repeatedly, punched him around 20 times and hit him with a truncheon 15 times, mainly on the face and the skull.
“I said to myself, if I fall to the ground I am not going to get back up,” Michel told the Loopsider media site.
Michel said the cops used brutally racist insults against him.
The beating stopped only when other people came to intervene. Police left, smashed a window and threw a teargas canister into the room.
This foul violence came a few days after a police attack against a refugee encampment on Place de la Republique in France.
Riot police beat refugees sheltering in makeshift tents and chased them through the streets firing tear gas.
The protests now are highlighting many other examples of police racism.
Six weeks ago Olivio Gomes, a black man, was killed by police in the suburbs of Paris.
Edilson, from the justice campaign for Olivio, said on the Paris demonstration, “Michel Zecler's case is not an isolated one.
“We come from the suburbs, and that's what we've been through since we were little. What shocked me the most about Michel's video is that there were dozens of police officers who were watching him being beaten without saying anything. It means that they are all the same.”
The government of president Emmanuel Macron has been forced to denounce the violence seen in the videos. But everyone knows ministers will back the police.
The government has used the cops to beat back Yellow Vest, anti-racist and workers’ protests during the last two years.
But now Macron faces a big movement that is asking who the cops protect.