Paris police have taken nearly 150 people into custody in what quickly became a tense protest against proposed security laws, with officers wading into the crowds of several thousand to haul away suspected troublemakers.
On Saturday, police targeted protesters they suspected might coalesce together into violent groups like those who vandalised stores and vehicles and attacked officers at previous demonstrations.
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The interior minister said police had detained 142 people. Long lines of riot officers and police vehicles with blue lights flashing escorted Saturday’s march through rain-slickened streets.
They hemmed in protesters, seeking to prevent a flare-up of violence. A police water cannon doused demonstrators at the end of the march, as night fell.
Thousands of marchers were protesting against a proposed security law that has sparked successive weekends of demonstrations and against a draft law aimed at combating “radicalism”.
The security bill’s most contested measure could make it more difficult to film police officers.
It aims to outlaw the publication of images with the intent to cause harm to police.
Critics fear the security bill, which has been adopted by the lower house of parliament, could erode media freedom and make it more difficult to expose police brutality.
The provision caused such an uproar that the government has decided to rewrite it.
Slogans on placards carried by marchers in Paris said “I will never stop filming” and “Camera equals mutilation?”
There were also protests in other cities. In Lyon, in the southeast, authorities reported five arrests among people they said attacked police and sought to loot shops.
Footage of white police beating up an unarmed Black music producer in his Paris studio on November 21 amplified anger over the legislation, widely seen as signalling a rightward lurch by President Emmanuel Macron.
Other incidents caught on camera have shown police in Paris using violence to tear down a migrant camp.
In the face of mounting protests, Macron’s ruling LREM party announced it would rewrite the bill’s controversial Article 24, dealing with filming the police.
But the announcement fell short of the mark for left-wing protesters and rights groups, who are demanding that the law be completely withdrawn.
In scenes reminiscent of the “yellow vest” anti-government protests of late 2018 and early 2019, shop windows were smashed and vehicles set alight last week in Paris as small groups of demonstrators clashed with police.
On Saturday, the police arrested several anarchist “Black Bloc” demonstrators in the middle of the crowd in Paris.
Demonstrating in Montpellier, southern France, 49-year-old doctor Anne-Marie Briand said she considered her “duty as a citizen is to ensure respect for our rights”.
She carried a banner reading “a blurry cop is a dodgy cop” – referring to the law’s ban on publishing images that allow an officer to be identified where the intention is to cause the officer “physical or psychological harm”.
Recurring allegations of racism and brutality against the police have become a big headache for Macron.
In a letter to a police union leader on Monday, he announced plans for a summit in January on how to improve relations between the police and communities.
“There is urgent need to act,” Macron said in the letter to the Unite-SGP-FO police union, adding that the summit would also address the police’s long-standing complaints over working conditions.