In France, another result of the Gilet Jaune movement has been preventative arrests, and recently two men were arrested before having even attended a protest. On January 29 Arthur Breton and his friend Theo were required to appear in the Nanterre Criminal Court under the guise of “grouping for the preparation of violence or damage” and “transport without a weapon, category D”. The driver refused to submit fingerprints and received a third charge for this.
These individuals were just 2 of the hundreds of citizens arrested on December 8th during the fourth day of protests as part of this movement. Many of the people arrested were for the actual rallies many of us eventually saw, but unlike them, these individuals never even made it to a rally. At 9:00 AM the two men were stopped at a road check in Villeneuve-la-Garenne (Hauts-de-Seine). At first the police asked to see the paperwork for the vehicle, but when they saw chrome paint and a tire bar in the vehicle they proceeded with an illegal search and arrests. The item in question was a safety item to lock your steering when while a car is parked to prevent theft, though the police refuse to call it anything other than an Iron Bar. Inside the car was not found yellow vests, breathing masks, or other items to indicate these men were headed to a protest, and neither had criminal histories. Both gentlemen swear they had not been in the city to mobilize with the Gilets Jaunes, and they had simply spent the night in the city and had been borrowing their mothers car.
It is being called collective hysterization, in that people are recklessly placed under judicial control before having committed a crime. The prosecutor involved feels there is enough evidence to justify criminal charges at this point leaving all other parties involved nearly speechless. On December 8, 1,082 people were arrested which was the largest single-day arrest total since the movement began on November 17. Those arrested recall the words of the Minister of Justice who urged all prosecutors to “achieve massive preventative controls” in response to the climate at the time. The problem being argued by these defense attorneys that these laws could not have been solving any serious issues if the people being arrested clearly were not intent on protesting. As they noted, the only crime committed here was not even having a yellow vest in the car. The individuals were ultimately acquitted of their charges but this event marks a notable change in the legal system of France. If you aren’t careful they will arrest you for what they think you are doing, and not what is factually correct.
February 2, 2019