French parliament passes bill to curb violent protests

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“Yellow Vests” protesters gather at the Opera Square in Paris, France. Xinhua

PARIS (Xinhua) – France’s parliament on Tuesday passed a bill aimed at curbing violent protests in the wake of three months of anti-government demonstrations by the “yellow vests” movement.

A total of 387 lawmakers voted in favour, 92 against and 74 abstained, among them 50 deputies from the ruling party, The Republic On the Move (LREM) which has so far be very united.

Proposed in the wake of the violent protests that plunged Paris into its worst civil unrest in decades, the anti-riot bill triggered disquiet in the President Emmanuel Macron camp that may test his majority.

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“Our abstention is not a sign of any political stance or distrust of our majority, but of our attachment to the rule of law in which, under no pretext, the freedom to demonstrate cannot be altered,” said several LREM lawmakers in a statement.

Following the draft law presented by Prime Minister Edouard Philippe last month, prefects, or local state security officials could impose a ban on people deemed to pose a threat to public safety.

Furthermore, the bill makes covering the face during a protest an offence, with those who do not respect it risk to be jailed one year and pay a fine of 15,000 euros ($17,118).

It also allows police to search bags and cars in the immediate vicinity of a demonstration.

After the National Assembly’s approval, the bill will pass to the Senate for debate in March.

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