(29 September 2019) The freedom to assemble freely and demonstrate are fundamental liberties that are essential in a democratic society. It is the responsibility of the public authorities to ensure these liberties through appropriate measures.
The Paris Observatory for Public Liberties’ teams were present on September 21st during the “climate and social justice march” and deplore the repeated infringements on these liberties.
The Observatory notes that a quasi-militarised peacekeeping force, consisting of heavily equipped officers, was deployed right from the start of the demonstration, near the Luxembourg garden, in the immediate vicinity of several groups of protesters.
Over the course of the demonstration, the Observatory noticed that so-called “war materials”, such as LBD-40, were used. These materials can cause irreversible injuries when used without the correct precautions.
The Observatory also noted that police units not specialized in peacekeeping, and, especially the BRAV-M and anti-criminality brigade, were deployed once again. The intervention of these units remains blatantly unsuited to these situations.
The systematic deployment of these security apparatuses raises questions on the suitability of such measures in the context of demonstrations organised by associations that are identified as “non-violent” (Non-Violent Associations) and declared to the prefecture.
Reports also indicate that tear gas was used by law enforcement units indiscriminately in the area of the Bercy park, including on families present in the park.
The Observatory restates that occurrences of disturbance of public order do not give police forces the legitimacy to intervene recklessly and disproportionally.
The behaviour of law enforcement units during this demonstration is part of a wider trend that has been observed over several months. It illustrates the lack of any de-escalation strategy as well as the occurrence of individual actions by law enforcement officers that are at odds with their deontological principles.
The Parisian Observatory for Public Liberties will continue to collect information and witness testimonies, with the aim of publishing a periodic report. Furthermore, the Observatory will not miss out on the opportunity to respond to the requests of the group of independent experts designated by the UN’s Council for human rights, who will visit France for the second time in early November 2019.