FRANCE: Civil society condemns the offensive strategy of the authorities against the Yellow Vests

(Ligue des droits de l’homme) On the eve of Act X of the mobilisation of the Yellow Vests, the League for Human Rights (LDH) is concerned about the repression of demonstrators. It calls on the government to prevent all police violence and to guarantee the right to demonstrate in complete safety.

No violence is acceptable, neither against property, police or journalists nor against the disproportionate violence of the police forces from which it is expected to measure and control.

With authoritarian statements that are often provocative, the government tries to deter these street protests with every possible means going so far as to accuse the participants of having planned the future violence during riots. He chose to maintain violent policing through disproportionate devices, indiscriminate gassing and bludgeoning, the use of defensive bullet launchers (LBD 40) and disembarking grenades (GLI F4) with dramatic consequences. The official toll at the end of 2018 was nearly 2,700 wounded and maimed with women and men disabled for life, blinded, hands torn off, lesions on the stomach or face, with irreparable consequences.

After hearing many testimonies on the serious injuries and mutilations of demonstrators, the LDH, like Human Rights Defender, is calling for an immediate ban on these unsuitable weapons and for a return to proportionate policing.

Since the beginning of the Yellow Vest movement, the repression carried out by the public authorities has been of an exceptional scale and indiscriminate. More than 5,500 arrests, some of them preventive even before the rallies, thousands of police officers in police custody and more than a thousand severe sentences were recorded.

By choosing to clash rather then appeasement and listening, the government is locking itself into a logic that exacerbates tensions and prevents any constructive social dialogue. The Prime Minister’s announcement of new provisions limiting the conditions under which demonstrations could or could not take place, with increased administrative controls, is a further sign of an authoritarian drift that would seriously undermine fundamental freedoms: the right to demonstrate and freedom of expression, which are essential achievements of any living democracy.

LDH denounces this dangerous offensive strategy because it is not up to the power to choose the forms of expression of social movements and oppositions, let alone to restrict them, nor to fix the terms and spaces of debate.

In this deep institutional and political crisis, the legitimate strength of the State is its ability to build with all citizens a society of democratic dialogue, and to respond to the voiced demands for respect, social justice and real equality.