France: protests against police violence continue

France saw more mass protests this weekend against a proposed security law aimed at restricting the filming of police in action. Once again, there were violent clashes between police and demonstrators in Paris. What is driving this spiral of violence and confrontation - and how can it be stopped?

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Der Standard (AT) /

Constant violence under Macron

The current riots are part of a worrying trend, notes Der Standard:

“Whatever the answer may be to the question - ultimately political - of causes and guilt, there is something that must make us think: for over two years now the presidency of Emmanuel Macron has been marked by violence. The yellow vests, the protests against reform plans and now those against police brutality - the spiral of violence is spinning ever faster in France. ... There is something disquieting about the growing social, political and societal tensions in France, especially in the unpredictable coronavirus era. It cannot be ruled out that Macron's term in office will end in chaos.”

Le Monde (FR) /

Jeopardising the right to demonstrate

The violence that is accompanying the protests against the security law must stop, Le Monde insists:

“The basic right to demonstrate peacefully is at risk. Not only because of the Covid-19 pandemic, but above all because of the violence that is systematically turning protest marches into clashes with the police and demonstrations into riots. ... This spiral of violence which only encourages a dangerous authoritarianism must be stopped. ... Instead of further militarising the police and isolating them from the demonstrators, we must implement a strategy of dialogue and appeasement like those successfully used by many European police forces. But we must also seek a political de-escalation that breaks with the arrogance of vertical power that is all too often the norm.”

Contrepoints (FR) /

We should all demonstrate for our basic rights

Public debate would be more nuanced if more people who are not on the left participated in the protests, liberal journalist Nathalie Meyer demands in Contrepoints:

“I personally don't want to leave it to the left to defend our freedoms and the rule of law. ... Not all police officers are pigs. On the contrary, they're here to protect us and not to protect one another through some kind of law of silence and willful blindness. As wrong as it is to believe that all police officers are bastards, it is also wrong to think that the powers that be form a perfect whole which is never mistaken and to which we as individuals must bow.”

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (DE) /

Trust requires transparency

The French police are also to blame for the fact that peaceful protests have been increasingly overshadowed by violence, says the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung:

“The video-documented cases of police violence this year alone suggest that these are no longer isolated incidents. In France too, the vast majority of police officers do their work as a service for the common good. Some, however, apparently believe they are entitled to do as they please. To prevent them from going unpunished and such assaults from becoming the norm, it must be permitted to document police violence. Because for people to trust the police their work must be transparent.”

Dromos tis Aristeras (GR) /

This is what Macron's democracy looks like

The brutal attack on Michel Zecler has opened people's eyes, writes the leftist weekly Dromos tis Aristeras:

“With a green light from Macron, many policemen took to the streets to mow down the yellow vest crowd. Their efforts were rewarded with the recent passing of this incredible security law that among other things forbids citizens from recording police officers in action on video. More and more people are now beginning to understand why a 'parliamentary majority' that is not close to the people passes such laws. As the recent anti-government demonstrations and the fury with which Macron's thugs broke them up show, the era of approval under false pretexts is over. ... Zecler is not an unfortunate exception, but the rule. Elite and democracy are irreconcilable concepts.”

Le Figaro (FR) /

Mainly a crisis of authority

The state has its lost hold on power, Le Figaro admonishes:

“Our public authorities are powerless against concrete security threats and are trying to compensate for this worrying weakness with legislative zeal. ... From the point of view of upstanding citizens, fundamental freedoms are being trampled underfoot, and the country's supreme administrative court, the Council of State, agrees. ... Article 24 should really concern us less than the crisis of authority that is rocking our country. The policeman who discredits his uniform and the rioter who tarnishes his demonstration are the worst symptoms of this. But the cowardice of the state vis-á-vis everyday violence, the failure of the schools and the disappearance of civic behavior are no less to blame. ... When authority is based only on decrees, the people respond with a lack of discipline.”

La Stampa (IT) /

Private happiness and public distrust

French historian and sociologist Marc Lazar comments in La Stampa:

“Trust is the key word. Because suspicion of the police is only the symptom of a more general phenomenon. All surveys show that there is a shocking contrast between a very high level of private satisfaction and a general distrust of all political and public institutions and their representatives. France in 2020 is private happiness and public distrust. This is worrying for the state of French democracy.”