France is signaling it’s making preparations for a massive new crackdown on the gilets jaunes or “yellow vests” anti-government protests that have gripped the country for seven weeks. A new law under consideration could make any demonstration illegal to begin with if not previously approved by authorities, in an initiative already being compared to the pre-Maiden so-called “dictatorship law” in Ukraine.
In the name of reigning in the violence that has recently included torching structures along the prestigious Boulevard Saint Germain in Paris, and smashing through the gates of government ministry buildings, the French government appears set to enact something close to a martial law scenario prohibiting almost any protest and curtailing freedom of speech.
Fires set at structures along the famous Boulevard Saint Germain in Paris, France, January 5, 2019, via Reuters
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe presented the new initiative to curtail the violence and unrest while targeting “troublemakers” and banning anonymity through wearing masks on French TV channel TF1 on Monday. He said the law would give police authority crack down on “unauthorized demonstrations” at a moment when police are already arresting citizens for merely wearing a yellow vest, even if they are not directly engaged in protests in some cases.
PM Philippe said the government would support a “new law punishing those who do not respect the requirement to declare [protests], those who take part in unauthorized demonstrations and those who arrive at demonstrations wearing face masks”.
Philippe’s tone during the statements was one of the proverbial “the gloves are off” as he described the onus would be on “the troublemakers, and not taxpayers, to pay for the damage caused” to businesses and property.
“Those who question our institutions will not have the last word,” he added.
However, if anything the protests have grown fiercer in response to any police crackdown or violence against demonstrators. Should all protests be banned under the new law, it could be the start of more violent riots gaining steam, as what began Nov. 17 as anger over fuel tax hikes has now turned into rage at President Emmanuel Macron and policies that seem to favor the urban elite.