“Being in an undeclared demonstration is a crime, which deserves an arrest,” assured the Minister of the Interior on Tuesday. This is incorrect.
The social tension does not fall. After the rejection, by nine votes, of a motion of censure against the government, the pension reform has been adopted, Monday, early evening. However, the spontaneous demonstrations that have taken place since the announcement of the use of 49.3 continue every evening, in Paris and in several cities in France.
These gatherings, not declared to the prefecture or town hall, were marked by tensions with the police. They resulted in hundreds of arrests, while several participants denounced police violence. “Being in an undeclared demonstration is a crime, which deserves interpellation”justified the Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin, on Tuesday March 21, interviewed by BFMTV. Is he saying true or “fake”? Franceinfo takes stock of what is legal, and what is not.
“We have the right to gather spontaneously”
In France, the right to demonstrate is guaranteed by the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. This right can be exercised in two cases: either the event has been declared by its organizers to the prefecture or town hall and has not been banned. Either it has not been declared and it is then what is called a spontaneous demonstration.
However, contrary to what Gérald Darmanin says, the Court of Cassation endorsed in July 2021 the right to demonstrate, including in this type of gathering. RJoining an improvised demonstration is therefore not an offence, i.e. an offense of medium seriousness, between a contravention and a crime. “In France, we have the right to gather spontaneously, including to protest against a public decision: the fact of gathering does not authorize the police to disperse the crowd”confirms to franceinfo Sébastian Roché, research director at the CNRS and specialist in police and security issues.
On the other hand, people who take part in an explicitly prohibited event are liable to a fourth class fine, of a maximum of 750 euros, according to article R644-4 of the Penal Code. At the same time, organizers who do not declare their demonstration to the authorities, or who maintain it despite its ban, risk a six-month prison sentence and a fine of 7,500 euros, according to article 431-9 of the Penal Code. However, in the absence of a declaration, as is the case in spontaneous demonstrations, the organizer or organizers are difficult to identify.
A “crowd” can be reprimanded according to the Penal Code
This does not mean that a participant in an undeclared demonstration cannot be the perpetrator of an offence. “Any gathering of people on the public highway or in a public place likely to disturb public order” can constitute “a crowd”has article 431-3 of the Penal Code. According to the terms provided for in article L.211-9 of the Homeland Security Code, a “crowd can be dissipated by the police after two summonses to disperse remained without effect”, under certain conditions. A protester participating in a “crowd” and does not respect the dispersal instruction is then guilty of an offense punishable by one year’s imprisonment and a fine of 15,000 euros, according to article 431-4 of the Penal Code. There is a margin of interpretation on what constitutes, or not, a legitimate reason to order the dispersal, notes Sébastien Roché, who points “a difficulty with the legal framework for dispersal”.
Other offenses are also likely to be committed in demonstration, whether declared or not, such as “participation in a group with a view to committing violence”, or “contempt” of a police officer. In the same way, the fact that these offenses are or are not constituted is subject to interpretation, which allows “unfortunately too easily to arrest people abusively”denounces Fanny Gallois, head of the Freedoms program at Amnesty International France, quoted by The union.
Source: France TV Info