France to ban balaclavas at protests

19 minutes ago | Europe France to ban balaclavas at protests By RFI David Baché / RFI

The French lower house has approved the main strands of a new anti-riot bill introduced following violence and vandalism at some Yellow Vest protests.

The bill makes covering the face during a protest an offence, with anyone charged liable to a year in prison and a €15,000.

Individuals identified as habitual hooligans will be banned from taking part in demonstrations and the police will have the right to search bags and cars in the immediate vicinity of a demonstration.

Still under discussion is a part of the bill which would force protestors involved in acts of violence to pay for any damage

The bill was the subject of noisy debate in the French lower house.

There was criticism even from within President Emmanuel Macron's own centrist LREM party, from MPs who worry about a possible threat to civil liberties.

But announcing the draft law earlier this month, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said some of the yellow vest protests had led to unacceptable violence.

Several police officers have been injured in riots and cars and shops have also been torched or vandalized and looted.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner insists the bill is not "an anti-Yellow Vest law" but a law “to protect demonstrators, shopkeepers, local residents and police.”

The bill is likely to be passed in the Senate where the right wing Les Républicains have a majority.

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