OAN’s Roy Francis
2:30 PM – Friday, June 23, 2023
The French government issued a decree on Wednesday shutting down a climate activist group after officials had accused them of “eco-terrorism.”
The activist group, Uprisings of the Earth, had frequently resorted to violence and clashes with police during their demonstrations.
The group condemned the shutdown, calling it a violation of human rights and an infringement on the French public’s freedom of speech. The group’s lawyer, Raphael Kempf, told Reuters that the shutdown targets speech and has vowed to contest the decision in the courts.
“It’s an infringement on freedom of expression, it targets speech and not actions,” Kempf said.
Patrick Baudouin, Head of the French Human Rights League, agreed with the group, saying that this is only a part of a wider trend and that the government has been attacking “several freedoms.”
“For the past few months there have been attacks on several freedoms (freedom of protest, expression and association), that primarily concern the ecologist movement,” he said.
The process to shut down the group due to their violent demonstrations had begun in March, after a protest in western France led to violent clashes between 5,000 protesters and 3,000 police officers. Police had fired teargas after vehicles were set on fire in order to try and disperse the demonstrators. Serious injuries had been reported at the time among both police and protesters.
French authorities had also arrested 14 people who belonged to the group on Tuesday, after an investigation that had begun in December into their actions during a demonstration against a major cement manufacturer in 2022, according to BFMTV.
The group said that it plans to appeal the decision to dissolve it, adding that the decision by the government would help it gain support among the public.
“We see it as a call to set up a network of resistance, as a lever to help even more people join the next actions of Soulèvements de la Terre,” the group told CNN. “The government claimed to make us disappear, but in reality we are becoming more and more visible,” the statement added.
The French Human Rights League released a statement and said that the government’s decision to dissolve the group was a “worrying sign” of a crackdown on environmental protest.
“This decision comes in a climate particularly hostile to this environmental movement, attempting to bluntly silence it and its supporters,” the statement read.
The numerous protests and clashes in France in 2023 had also prompted United Nations officials to advise the French government to revise its policing practices and to avoid using excessing force.
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