Tuesday, July 2, 2013

French Police assault elderly, children

by Stefano Gennarini, J.D.

PARIS, June 28 (C-FAM) An international lawyer has filed complaints against France in the UN Human Rights Council for brutalizing peaceful demonstrators. Videos show French police beating marriage demonstrators, using tear gas and clubs against women, men, elderly and children.

Homosexual marriage and adoption became law in France on May 18. But a movement numbering millions of French citizens is determined to change that. La Manif Pour Tous, which means “demonstration for all”, is not relenting despite the government’s attempts to intimidate and violently repress them.

Since the law passed, La Manif has followed French President Francois Hollande with colorful demonstrations characterized by clean-faced youth, families, and elderly who believe children have a right to a mother and a father.

French authorities have decided pro-family demonstratos are a public threat. Riot police show up anywhere the demonstrators appear. They have been subject to baseless identity checks, arbitrary arrests and detentions, as well as police brutality through physical assaults and tear gas. Included in those roughed up by police has been Christine Boutin, former Cabinet Minister for the Sarkozy government who was tear-gassed, and Jean-Fredrick Poisson, a Member of the French National Assembly.

A report in Le Figaro has estimates of over 1000 arrests and 500 detentions since May 26. More than 150 individuals have filed complaints through different redress mechanisms.

In comparison, when violent riots erupted following a victory of the Paris soccer team in May only 11 people were arrested. Nearly 300 were arrested at a La Manif demonstration the same month.

Many were arrested solely for wearing a t-shirt with La Manif’s logo, an outline of a mother and father with two children. Forty-eight parliamentarians have demanded Hollande end the arbitrary detentions and arrests.

According to organizers, three massive gatherings of up to one million demonstrators have taken place since January. The French Minister of the Interior, Manoel Valls justifies the presence of riot police by citing brief clashes between riot police and “a few hundred” protesters at the end of some demonstrations.

But videos show French riot police charging peaceful protesters and families with children and elderly or disabled French citizens blinded by tear gas. Images of undercover police suggest they were under orders to instigate violence and then violently repress protesters.

A human rights lawyer has brought a complaint against France at the most recent session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. Gregor Puppinck of the European Center for Law and justice (ECLJ) laments that France, a country which claims to have an exemplary human rights record, is the first European country ECLJ has filed a complaint against at the United Nations. The ECLJ hosted a discussion of the repression of La Manif at the Council of Europe this week.

A rally on Monday protested the trial of one peaceful demonstrator, 23-year old Nicolas Bernard-Busse. He was sentenced to two months in prison and 1000 Euros. Nicolas sought refuge in a restaurant after police charged a group of protesters on May 26. He was accused of evading arrest, even though no cause for arrest was alleged against him.

Dozens of cases like Nicolas’ will riddle the French justice system in coming months, and perhaps years. Demonstrators say they don’t care how long it takes to repeal the law.

Axel, a youth leader, told participants at a rally that was violently dispersed by police: “It is our inner life, our peace, our love which form the greatest force of rĂ©sistance, and to this, the government can oppose nothing.”

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