France told it cannot ban people from ‘yellow vest’ demonstrations

France has been told that it cannot ban named 'yellow vests' from demonstrating, in a blow to the government's crackdown on violent protests.

France told it cannot ban people from 'yellow vest' demonstrations
The ban on certain individuals was a key part of the government crackdown. Photo: AFP

France's Constitutional Council on Thursday struck down a measure that would have let authorities ban certain individuals from protesting, a key element of the government's plan to crack down on violence at “yellow vest” demonstrations.

The council – France's highest constitutional authority which rules on the validity of laws – said the proposal gave officials “excessive latitude” to justify the individual bans against people suspected of being “a particularly serious threat to law and order.”


The ban on people protesting while covering their faces was upheld by the constitutional court. Photo: AFP

The move was inspired by anti-hooligan measures that keep out known troublemakers from football stadiums, but critics said it arbitrarily infringed on a person's right to freedom of speech and assembly.

But the council upheld other measures of the law passed on March 12, such as more severe penalties for organisers of unauthorised demonstrations, and for people who cover their faces during violent protests.

Demonstrators who defy protest bans will now face up to six months in prison and fines of up to €7,500, while those masking their faces could be fined up to €15,000.

France has been rocked by months of weekly Saturday protests by the yellow vests, which emerged over fuel taxes before snowballing into a broad revolt against President Emmanuel Macron.

The protests have often degenerated into rioting and fierce clashes with police in Paris and other cities, often by far-left and far-right extremists wielding metal bars or slingshots.

After subsiding as the protests waned early this year, violence flared again on March 16 when thousands of black-clad agitators battled police for hours while torching dozens of businesses.

The government has vowed to crack down on the destruction, outlawing recent protests on the Champs-Elysees in Paris as well as in other city centres.

The new law also gives police the right to search individuals and vehicles at or near demonstrations, to prevent people from bringing in objects that could be used as weapons.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


What happened to the rioters who trashed the Arc de Triomphe during yellow vest violence?

A court in France has finally handed out sentences to some of those involved in the vandalism and theft at the Arc de Triomphe in December 2018 - when 'yellow vest' violence in Paris shocked the world.

What happened to the rioters who trashed the Arc de Triomphe during yellow vest violence?
'Yellow vest' protesters clash with police by the Arc de Triomphe on December 1st 2018 in Paris. Photo: Abdulmonam EASSA / AFP

The French court on Thursday sentenced eight people to suspended jail terms and community service for taking part in one of the most violent episodes of the anti-government ‘yellow vest’ protests that rocked France two years ago.

A total of nine stood trial this week for the incident, but one of them, a former soldier, was cleared for lack of evidence, presiding judge Sonia Lumbroso said at the verdict.

The court ruled the suspects were neither the instigators nor the main culprits of the vandalism and looting around the Arc de Triomphe monument in Paris, when scenes of destruction and fierce clashes with police made global headlines.

Most of them had no criminal records.

They were sentenced to 70 hours of community service for entering the monument, but those also found guilty of stealing items such as postcards, Arc de Triomphe models or miniature Eiffel Towers from the gift shop, were fined €100 for theft.

A ‘yellow vest’ protester arrives at the courthouse in Paris to attend the trial of ten people on charge of destruction and theft around the Arc de Triomphe monument in Paris. Photo: Thomas COEX / AFP

One of the group, a man who was caught on camera trying to break down a door with a fire extinguisher, was handed the most severe sentence, a suspended prison term of eight months.

Dozens of cars were set on fire and businesses trashed all along the celebrated Champs-Elysées avenue on December 1st, 2018, the third Saturday of mass demonstrations against President Emmanuel Macron.

READ ALSO: Macron risks losing support from left against Le Pen in French presidential election

He was accused of ignoring the plight of struggling French families and after months of protests he abandoned a planned fuel tax hike and raised spending on the lowest earners.

The protesters had already skirmished with security forces at earlier rallies, but police were unprepared for the rioting that engulfed the capital just a few weeks before Christmas.

Despite firing volleys of tear gas and rubber bullets, the officers were forced to abandon their positions around the Arc de Triomphe, which honours France’s war dead.

Protesters snuffed out the eternal flame over the tomb of an unknown World War I soldier and spray-painted the stone walls with graffiti including “the yellow vests will triumph”.

Others forced their way inside the arch, ransacking the gift shop and damaging scores of artworks, causing damage that cost €1.2 million to repair.

READ ALSO: Is France’s ‘yellow vest’ movement really on its way back?