Tens of thousands of protesters marched across France on Saturday to condemn a security bill that critics say would restrict filming and post images to social media, especially to document cases of police brutality.
Thousands marched in Paris and cities across France, many of them angry at what they said was the “disproportionate” response from police when they broke up an illegal New Year’s rave in Brittany that attracted around 2,400 people.
Estimates of turnout varied widely between authorities and activists: while police estimated the total turnout across the country at 34,000, organizers insisted it was close to 200,000.
In Paris, the marchers came out despite a rare snowfall and carried banners with slogans such as “Police everywhere, justice nowhere” and “State of emergency, police state.”
“It’s a strange dictatorship, you ask how far they will go with this law,” said a marcher in the northern city of Lille, who only identified himself by his first name Francois.
“If this is the case in the country of human rights and freedom, then I am ashamed to be French!” he added.
Police arrested 75 people across the country, including 24 in Paris, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said, while 12 police and paramilitary officers were injured.
Police also intervened to break up an illegal rave near Paris demonstration, said Darmanin in a tweet.
Pictures of white police beating up an unarmed black music producer in his studio in Paris on November 21 have intensified anger over the legislation, condemned by many as a signal to the right by President Emmanuel Macron.
Other recent incidents captured on camera have shown that the Paris police use force to tear down a migrating camp.
Protesters are also opposed to the use of increased surveillance tools such as drones and pedestrian cameras.
French Senate due to consider bill in March
In light of growing protests, Macron’s ruling LREM party has announced that it will write about the bill’s controversial Article 24 which is about filming the police.
But left-wing protesters and rights groups insist the law should be withdrawn completely.
The “Freedom Marches” have been called by an umbrella group that includes Amnesty International and several unions, including those that bring together journalists and film directors.
The proposal, which has already been approved by the National Assembly, will be examined by the Senate, the French upper house of parliament, in March.