France: Police and protesters clash at security law rally

France: Police and protesters clash at security law rally
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5 December 2020
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Protesters took to the streets across France on Saturday for a second weekend of mass protests denouncing President Emmanuel Macron's security law plans.

Police and demonstrators clashed in Paris, with police firing tear gas and charging demonstrators after objects were thrown at them.

Several cars were set on fire along the Avenue Gambetta, while the windows of several businesses were smashed along the protest route, news agency AFP reported.

Protesters carried banners reading: "France, land of police rights" and "Macron, enough!"

A protester wearing a yellow vest holds up his hands during a demonstration against a new security law in Paris

Protesters say the new security law would make it difficult to hold police accountable

Saturday's nationwide protest was called by a collective of human rights groups, trade unions and journalists. Officials did not immediately release crowd size estimates, although several news agencies said the march in Paris included "thousands" of people.

The march comes a week after a similar demonstration that drew over 130,000 people, according to French authorities. Organizers of last week's protest put the number of participants higher at 500,000.

Why are people protesting against the security law?

Macron's new national security law has sparked a backlash among the public and France's political left — with critics saying the plans would constrain civil liberties.

A portion of the draft security bill that would restrict publishing pictures of the faces of police officers has sparked particular ire.

Riot police officers walk past defaced posters for French President Emmanuel Macron during a demonstration in Paris

Lawmakers said they will re-write a controversial portion of the bill that would have restricted publishing images of police

In a turnaround this week, Macron's ruling party said it would rewrite that part of the bill. Critics still charge that the bill would make it harder to hold the police accountable and goes too far.

Protesters have also been angered by the recent beating of a Black man and accuse France's law enforcement agencies of systemic racism. In late November, music producer Michel Zecler was struck by several police officers. The beating came to light after closed circuit television footage began circulating online.

The French president on Friday announced that he would set up an online platform starting next year where people can report discrimination, including from the police. Some of the country's police unions quickly and sharply criticized the plans.

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