France, the Yellow Vests, Fake News and Media Sensationalism – Part 1

There is a conspiracy theory that the French media is distorting, oppressing and covering-up the protests of the Yellow Vest Movement. There is a “complete media blackout”. I really do not know what to say about all this, because, I mean, the same lies that were said about Syria and Assad, is now being said about Macron and France – “Macron is gassing his own people!”, “Macron, the butcher of France!”….

If a video which seems to be recent has been uploaded to the internet with titles like “The true…”, “Real footage…” etc, and it has very poor quality audio/video, then it is most likely a fake, or true, but taken out of its original context.

I do not support any political party. I do not vote, and will never vote, in any Government elections. Nor do I support what you call the Yellow Vest movement. I am indifferent. I am however, wanting to correct a few things that is free from the manipulations of the media. False, and very misleading information about France is spreading like wildfire across all social media platforms. Shared thousands of times.

This is a viral video that has been circulating since the weekend.

It was taken in Toulouse, Place du Capitole, by a demonstrator, back to the facade of the Capitol, who films “tear gas grenades which “fall from the sky”on the right side of the place of the Capitol” during the clashes between the police forces and a part of the protesters.

On the left of the image, is the helicopter of the Gendarmerie, which flies over every Saturday of the demonstrations and helps guide the police on the ground.  A protester comments on her video, there is no doubt about it: the “raining” lachrymos comes from the helicopter. Here is the video in question first:

We will see below that this is not the case, but this video was quickly relayed by the accounts of the yellow vests: “in which democracy can we shoot protesters from a helicopter?”

The police were on the other side of the square, in front of the Grand Hotel de l’Opera and can be seen in this other video, taken almost at the same time by a journalist from France 3 located on the other side:

It was tear gas being launched from the police on the ground. The person filming moved the camera so it is not seen, and then blames the helicopter. Tear gases are usually shot in a bell (to avoid serious injury) using a pitcher from the ground, which can give the impression of falling from the sky. Tear gas is used to disperse crowds often.

In the video used as supposed evidence of shots from the helicopter, we see at 0’09 seconds and 0’20 seconds that the tear gas canisters come from the position of the forces:

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In this other video, we see it coming from the police south-east of Place du Capitole and targeting the north-east of this place:

France uses, for law enforcement operations, the GLI-F4, and tear gas grenades. The GLI-F4 was first authorised in law enforcement operations in France on June 30th 2011, in article 2011-795 of the Penal Code. Tear gas canisters and their launchers are allowed (when violence or assault is carried out against the public force or when the latter is unable to defend the land it occupies otherwise) to be used by the police for the maintenance of public order of Article 431-3 of the Criminal Code.

Is using tear gas by the police during this movement in violation of an international treaty? This is what many protesters have denounced on social networks, considering that tear gas and other riot control agents, considered chemical weapons, are banned in times of war by the 1993 convention. The Chemical Weapons Prohibition Treaty provides that “each State undertakes not to employ riot control agents as a means of warfare”.

The Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the Convention on Biological Weapons and international human rights law provide that their use is exceptionally permitted “to serve as a weapon for the maintenance of public order, including domestic riot control”. Article I (5) of this Convention states that “each State Party undertakes not to use riot control agents as a means of warfare” and defines in Article II (7) such riot control agents as being “any chemical product that is not listed on a chart and that can quickly cause sensory irritation or physical disability in humans that expires shortly after exposure ceases”.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) notes that “riot control agents, such as tear gas, are considered chemical weapons if they are used as a method of warfare, however, OPCW also notes that “States may legitimately possess anti-riot agents and use them for law enforcement purposes, but States that are members of the Chemical Weapons Convention must declare the type of anti-riot agents they have.”

Article II (9.d), which states that among “purposes not prohibited by this Convention” are “public order purposes, including domestic riot control purposes”. The police use only serves to disperse people, without lethal objective

At each yellow vest protest, the Defense Ball Launcher (LBD), more commonly known as flash-ball, is one of the weapons used by law enforcement when protests turn into clashes. This has already caused many injuries among the demonstrators since the beginning of the movement, including among journalists and students.

The CRS are notorious for their tough approach to policing and have been accused and heavily criticised for the use of police brutality against French citizens. Flash-ball is a registered French brand of non-lethal weapon, belonging to the launchers of defense balls (LBD).

The use of LBD 40 is strictly regulated by law. During a demonstration, the police may use this thrower to dispel a crowd “likely to disturb public order” but only “if absolutely necessary and strictly proportionate “ . As stipulated in Article L211-9 of the Internal Security Code , a crowd may be dissipated by the police force after two summons that have remained ineffective.

Another image shared thousands of times  to show the brutality and dictatorship of president Emmanuel Macron:

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Except that he was not our president in March, 2016.

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This image was shared on an anti-Macron page to suggest that it represents the degrading image that France gives today to the whole world under the presidency of Emmanuel Macron.

This photo is seen in a a slideshow published by Nice Matin on July 16, 2010, when Nicolas Sarkozy was the President. According to reports from Nice Matin , France 3 and AFP, firefighters in Nice were protesting against the future pension reform. A group of 150 to 200 firefighters from all over the region protested illegally in front of the town hall of Nice and then forced themselves into the prefectural palace of Nice.

On social media, many users highlighted the fact that there appears to be very little media coverage on what is happening in France.

Firstly, you have to be very careful about parody and satirical sites, like Nordpresse in Belgium, relaying news on the protests. Secondly, in France, French media has already broadcast images of police violence, there are no intangible rules regarding the ban on broadcasting images of a person suffering physical violence.

The broadcast depends on the character of the photo or video. If it has a character of general interest, the media have the right to disseminate it. This falls under the jurisprudence of the right to the image. There is an informal directive to avoid the broadcasting of certain expressions on air. The same goes for editorial choice of the channel not to relay too many images of violence during the protests, or they can be accused of “complacency towards physical violence”.

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This was actually a 55-year-old man. His daughter was screaming and pleading for them to stop hitting him. You see it is a man, clearly from another angle:

He was allegedly beaten for resisting arrest. He was tried in immediate appearance on Monday for participating in a protest despite a summons dispersal, and for being in possession of a weapon. The demonstrators threw pavers and bolts at the police, and he participated in that. Source, 20 minutes.

We see quite a lot of gilets jaunes rumors around a “European CRS” or mercenaries, who intervene in France at the request of the EU ….

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You have only discovered that the French police are armed in 2019? Police armed with such rifles have already been seen at previous demonstrations. It is not related to the yellow vests. They put this in place after the attacks on November 13, 2015. Bernard Cazeneuve announced on February 29, 2016, that each crew would be equipped with a HK G36 in order to be able to retaliate against Kalashnikov firing. You can read the articles, and see a video, here, and here, of CRS in March 2018, and here. So you can see, this has nothing to do with the yellow vests. Nothing on the mainstream media? Read part 2 here.

There is a difference between a handgun and a weapon of war. All CRS have been running HK-G36 or HK-UMP9 for nearly three years now. These weapons are part of the staffing of police officers of anti-crime brigades (BAC) and platoons of surveillance and intervention of the gendarmerie (PSIG) ,as part of the 2016 BAC-PSIG Plan.

Think for five seconds and you will understand why police are armed in places where there are hundreds of people, some people have a very short memory. It has been a long time since some CRS wander with assault rifles during demonstrations. They are there in case of a terrorist attack and protect the population. If that happened, you would be glad they were here. Attackers are fond of massive crowds, and so protests are places that could interest them. Hence the presence of armed police. They are NOT using them, it is just in case of terrorism. They will never shoot us with live ammo. Some of you cannot remember that France has a terrorism threat?

My goal with these posts is to tell you the real facts and re-establish the truth about these videos that cause a lot of indignation towards the police officers involved in these incidences. Videos shared more than 80,000 times.
About this video, on December 9, 2018, after the 4th day of protests by yellow vests, protesters continued to block some tolls. This was the case in the town of Bessan in the Herault (34) near the access A9. With the roadway being open to traffic, the danger was really dangerous for the protesters and motorists.
A young man, wearing a hoodie and a cap, moves in a wheelchair. On the road, he faces several gendarmes equipped with helmets and shields to unblock the place since illegal occupation. The gendarmes picked him up and put him on the roundabout but they noticed he had a telescopic baton (category D weapon) at the pelvis.
Protesters, who did not grasp the reason for the intervention, protest and move in his direction. During the confusion, the armchair rocks, causing the accidental fall. Two gendarmes try to raise him but the person obstinately refuses this help.
It is wrong to say that the gendarmes abused, denigrated or humiliated for the sole purpose of damaging the physical integrity of the person in a wheelchair. This person carried a category D weapon that he concealed, this weapon can be bought and held freely if the owner is of age, but can not be worn or transported without legitimate reason.
The individual refused to give his weapon despite the injunction of the Gendarmes, hence the intervention of the police.
The policeman tried to take his baton, but, faced with the refusal of the individual and in confusion, the armchair rocks, causing the accidental fall. The disabled person was not injured.
This is lying by omission, as uncut evidence clearly shows four Gendarmes against well over forty protesters, who attacked them first, and were only acting in self-defense. You can view the full video here.
Even if my President was a dictator killing his own people, which he’s not, the media sensationalism surrounding what is happening in France to garner international support for these fake revolutionists is pathetic.
The declared route of the protest was not respected by a group of protesters, who tried to reach the Senghor bridge. The prefecture indicated that the protest had been declared (to declare and not to ask permission is mandatory for protests) and had not been banned, but ensures that ” the declared route was not respected by the protesters.
You can read the details of the itinerary planned by the organisers here. It was not planned to cross the Seine again near the Assembly.
They respected the route up to the level of the Musée d’Orsay, and this is where some protesters dispersed, mainly because of tear gas. At the end of the platform, there were the CRS blocking access to the National Assembly (where the protest was supposed to end). When they saw that, they had two solutions: either go left rue de Solferino or go on the bridge, where gendarmes were posted in the middle. Some chose to go to the left, others chose to go on the bridge. The gendarmes advanced to block access. Suddenly yellow vests went down to the platforms to access the bridge (a ramp blocked by only four agents).
The group tried to access the bridge from the left bank and boxer, Christophe Dettinger, hit an officer.

I also want to readdress this video from Paul Joseph Watson, one of the most vocal in anti-France sentiment. He is misleading his audience who have little to no knowledge in the French language and/or French law.

In his latest video, Watson alleges that “The French Government is so terrified of the Yellow Vest Movement, they are debating new laws that would criminalise all unauthorised protests. Meaning, you would need Government permission to protest the Government.”

 

How can the French Government debate new laws that would criminalise all unauthorised protests, when that law is already in effect? You need the authorisation from the local Town Hall or Prefecture:

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In France, all demonstrations on a public road (processions, parades, gatherings ect) must be the object of a declaration at least three days, and a maximum of fifteen, before the date of the event. This declaration must be made at the town hall (the Mayor of your village, town or city) or prefecture (the State’s representative in a department or region).  In Paris, the terms are slightly different. The statement must be made at the police headquarters, two months (three in case of a large crowd) before the event. Requests made later are accepted when an unforeseen event of national or international importance justifies it. The urgency must be duly motivated.

Unauthorised demonstrations are already punishable by law, and in force since 1 January 2002:

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This is clearly stated in article 431-9 to 431-12 (in French) of the Penal Code. So it is not true that the French government are debating criminalising unauthorised protests, as that law is already in effect. If a demonstration takes place without declaration, the gathering will be illegal.

Watson continues to note that the yellow vest organiser, Eric Drouet, was arrested for an undeclared protest. This is very misleading, as his followers automatically assume that this law is not already in effect, and the French Government really are cracking down on all unauthorised protests, and without knowing that under French law, you must declare a demonstration within a certain time frame.

Eric Drouet was placed in custody and eventually released. In a statement, the Paris prosecutor indicated that “a summons by judicial police officer was issued to him on February 15, 2019 at 9 am in front of the Chamber 24/1 of the Paris Criminal Court of the heads of organization of a demonstration on the public road without authorisation, facts of December 22, 2018 and January 2, 2019 (article 431-9 of the penal code).”

According to the prosecutor, “the investigations conducted both on the facts of December 22, 2018 and those of January 2, 2019 show that Eric Drouet was one of the organisers of the rallies”. On 22 December the driver was taken into custody for the organisation of a demonstration without a declaration, participation in a group to commit violence or degradation and carrying a category D2 weapon. For the last two counts, he had already been summoned before the Criminal Court and placed under judicial control.

The organisation of a demonstration without prior declaration is punishable by six months’ imprisonment and a fine of €7,500, according to article 431-9 of the Penal Code. This is what Eric Drouet faced. Despite the summonses made by the head of the public order system of the Directorate of Public Order and Traffic, he remained on the public road. He was then arrested for organisation of an event without prior declaration.

It is possible to participate in an event that has not been declared without being legally pursued. The right to demonstrate is not enshrined in the Constitution, but it is contained in Article 10 of the Declaration of Human Rights of 1789, and Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Since the arrest of Eric Drouet for organising an undeclared protest, the debate on the right to protest has not wavered. It is possible to protest without declaring for a typical participant. For an organiser, the French law requires to declare the event in advance (to declare and not to ask permission). Failing this, the organiser of an undeclared demonstration is liable to six months’ imprisonment and a fine of € 7,500, according to article 431-9  of the Penal Code.

The circular of September 20th, 2016 (in French) on combating offenses committed during demonstrations and other movements, recalls that ” the mere participation in an undeclared or prohibited demonstration is not punished by [the] provisions which only concern the organisers”. However, if the rally was previously forbidden (in case of fear of trouble to public order), violation of the prohibitions or failure to comply with the decrees and orders of the police are punishable by fine for first-class offences.

An event may be prohibited by an order, only in case of fear of “serious disturbance of public order”, according to Article L211-3 of the Internal Security Code. Prohibitions are therefore relatively rare. If there is a risk of disturbing public order if, for example, there have already been clashes, if the street is obviously too narrow and there will be clashes with cars on the road. The organisers have the opportunity to challenge the prohibition orders.

To conclude; the French Government does not ban, and has no intention to ban, undeclared protests, but provides for sanctions for eventual organisers who have not complied with the procedure. The right to demonstrate can not be subject to prior authorisation. States may, however, set up a system of prior notification, aimed at facilitating the exercise of this right by allowing the authorities to take measures to guarantee public order (this is the case in France). A prohibition can only come as a last resort in the face of an exceptional threat, after evaluation of other forms of restriction to ensure public order and the exercise of the right to protest.

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The “masked” Antifa rioter may not pose any real threat to authority, but under French law, article 2010-1192 of the Penal Code, it is illegal to conceal ones face in public. Failure to comply is punishable by €150 fine. Any person who forces another person or persons to conceal their face by threat, violence, coercion, abuse of authority or abuse of power by reason of their sex is punishable by one year’s imprisonment and a €30,000 fine, Article 225-4-10. This law has been in effect since 2011, under President Sarkozy. The ban includes face-covering headgear, including maskshelmetsbalaclavasniqabs and other veils covering the face in public places, except under specified circumstances.

As for censoring the sign of the protester; It should also be noted that it was only an illustration photo present in the background on the board. The sign was visable in the live report, where we could see this original sign. Not to mention the “Macron resignation” heard several times during the news.

images used in the background on the plasma of France 3 are chosen by an editor, and eventually cropped/edited by a graphic designer, or they choose another image entirely. There is an informal directive to avoid the broadcasting of certain expressions on air. The same goes for editorial choice of the channel not to relay too many images of violence during the demonstrations, or they can be accused of “complacency towards physical violence”. This is nothing new to France.

Paul Joseph Watson’s claim that a young woman with a baby in a push chair  and was arrested simply for wearing a yellow vest, is also false..

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“Woman dragged away from her baby merely for wearing a yellow vest. Meanwhile, France is considering a law that would make all protest without government permission illegal. Europe is sliding towards tyranny.”

“A woman with a Maxi-Cosi with a doll inside was arrested because she did not want to give her identity, as she was walking near the procession of yellow vests in The Hague “, wrote the photographer Bob Van Keulen in his tweet.”

As seen in his fourth picture, it is a doll that appears in the stroller of the arrested woman:

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The woman caught the attention of police because she was walking with a doll in a stroller. They then approached her and wanted to check her identity, and when it turned out she could not, or did not want to show ID, she was arrested.

According to the law, everyone is required to present a piece of identification when asked by the police, and had nothing to do with the fact that she was wearing a yellow vest.

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