The French government’s attempts to crack down on climate protesters have only made their voices louder, reports Danny Chivers.
Protest is currently banned in Paris. Any outdoor gathering of more than two people with a political message has been strictly prohibited under ‘state of emergency” government powers, following the 13 November terror attacks. Anyone taking part in an illegal demonstration could face fines of $3,972 or up to two months in prison.
The French government imposed the protest ban supposedly in the name of public safety, and yet – as campaigners have pointed out – large gatherings such as football matches and Christmas markets have been allowed to go ahead. Groups of people, it seems, only become hazardous when they have a political point to make. The government has seemed determined to use these powers freely, putting a number of climate campaigners under house arrest, raiding activist squats and attempting to prevent two separate bicycle convoys from reaching Paris.
So protest has been banned, which means if you thought you saw a protest today, you must have been mistaken. If you were at the park opposite the Bataclan at 9 o’clock this morning, where Indigenous peoples from North America and the South Pacific led songs, prayers and blessings for the lives lost in the Paris attacks, and also for the defence of Mother Earth against the extractive industries – well, that wasn’t a protest. It was a ceremony, so no problem there.
Then, at noon, if you happened to see ten thousand people forming a human chain along the pavement from Place de la République to Nation, holding banners and placards demanding climate justice – well, that can’t have been a protest either. Because, you know, protest is banned.
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