French MPs back ‘anti-riot’ law, forbidding protesters from hiding faces & barring troublemakers

French MPs back ‘anti-riot’ law, forbidding protesters from hiding faces & barring troublemakers The French National Assembly has overwhelmingly supported the controversial “anti-riot” law, which bans demonstrators from hiding their faces and allows the authorities to bar those they deem as ‘troublemakers’ from protesting.

Despite claims that it may curb civil liberties and a heated debate in the parliament, the legislation was backed on Tuesday by 387 MPs, with only 92 “no” votes.

The anti-riot law makes it illegal for protesters to hide their faces, gives law enforcement more powers to remove potential “troublemakers” from rallies, and allows the authorities to ban some individuals from even showing up at demonstrations.

That last provision has caused objections from even some members of President Emmanuel Macron’s own party, who called it an attack on the fundamental freedom to protest.

French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner, who presented the bill in the parliament, has argued that it was about “stopping the brutes” and showing “zero tolerance for violence.”

Under the new law, those who “participate in disorder” or even find themselves in the vicinity of a violent demonstration on a public road may be punished by a year in prison and a 15,000 euro fine.

The bill will be considered by the Senate on March 12 as the government of President Emmanuel Macron hopes for its swift adoption into law as the country remains gripped by the Yellow Vest protests.

Thousands of people wearing high-visibility jackets have been protesting across France every weekend since November. The rallies, which were ignited by government-proposed fuel tax hikes but quickly morphed into broader discontent with Macron’s policies, frequently got out of control.

The demonstrators in Paris and other cities destroyed property, torched cars, blocked roads and clashed with police. The authorities haven’t hesitated to apply violence to suppress the rioters, putting tear gas, water cannons and non-lethal guns to use and seriously injuring dozens of people.

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