Question asked by Thierry on 09/14/2020
In a video posted Saturday, September 12 on Twitter, a young woman is indignant at having been fined 135 euros because of a leaflet, which she says she has “Picked up on the ground”. This was in the back pocket of his pants. On this social network, this video has been viewed more than 200,000 times.
– The General 💎 (@LE_GENERAL_OF) September 13, 2020
The scene takes place in the eighth arrondissement of Paris, at the corner of rue Arsène Houssaye and the Champs-Elysées. The video begins as the woman, Khadija, is arrested by the police in the company of a group with whom she demonstrated. All are searched. She is questioned about the presence of a leaflet in the back pocket of her pants. The officers ask for his ID. “We will verbalize madam”, we hear in the background on the video. The reason ? “Participation in a prohibited demonstration.”
What the interested party formally rejects: “No sir, in fact I was coming out and going to have a coffee. And the leaflet, it’s in my pocket, I’m not towing, so you can’t ticket for that. ”. Police response: “You must not be a bearer of signs […] You shouldn’t come to this area. ”
Sector where demonstrations are prohibited
Contacted by CheckNews, she explains having, earlier in the day, around noon, taken part in a gathering of yellow vests authorized at Place Wagram (XVIIe) with six other members of his movement. Two demonstrations of yellow vests were indeed authorized by the prefecture on September 12, including a procession going from Place Wagram to Place Saint-Pierre (XVIIIe) from 1 p.m. The protests, however, were prohibited in large areas of Paris, along the avenue des Champs-Elysées and in a perimeter “Comprising the Presidency of the Republic and the Ministry of the Interior, as well as in the sectors of the National Assembly, the Hotel Matignon, the Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral and the Prefecture of Police, the forum of Halles, Saint-Lazare station, Trocadéro and Champ de Mars ». The rue Arsène Houssaye, where the arrest took place, is located in this sector where demonstrations are prohibited.
The young woman says to herself “Reporter reporter for his collective” RED Family (Respaix, Equité, Dignité) which presents itself as “A movement of whistleblowers” and disseminates on its site various conspiratorial theses (as on an alleged link between “Covid, mask and pedophile”). She explains to CheckNews having been checked for the first time by the same agents while she was on her way with her group to the authorized assembly place, carrying a banner. This first meeting is also mentioned in the video posted online. There, the police would have explained to the group that they could unfold their banner only once in the procession. It’s back, “After leaving the demonstration” she specifies, that the verbalization took place.
Hold a leaflet, a fortiori in his pocket, in a prohibited demonstration area, could this be a ground for an offense? In any case, judge Serge Slama, professor of public law at the University of Grenoble, who qualifies this verbalization “Arbitrary”. According to him, for there to be an offense, “It would have been necessary to stop the young woman in action, in the forbidden procession of demonstrators. Because we can tow, hold leaflets and not participate in a demonstration. ”
And article R644-4 of the penal code expressly provides that participation in an event prohibited on the basis of Article 211-4 of the Internal Security Code may be punished by a fixed fine of 135 euros […], for Jean-Baptiste Perrier, professor of criminal law at Aix-Marseille University, the difficulty in this kind of situation is knowing “How to identify a person who participates in a demonstration or not”. According to him, it sometimes depends on “The appreciation of the policeman who controls. At the material time, he does not necessarily have all the elements in his possession to clearly determine whether or not the person is taking part in a gathering ”, he analyzes.
Contestation of the verbalization
The young woman told the police that she would oppose this ticket “To have a piece of paper in your pocket”. “Any person who has been fined may contest the report before the competent authorities”, indicates to CheckNews the Paris police headquarters, without giving details of the reason for the verbalization in question. Nevertheless, Serge Slama considers that this approach is “Almost impossible since the protestor will have to seize the public prosecutor”, “An often long procedure which, in fine, leads to an increase in the fine which can go up to 750 euros”. Khadija does not give up. “I will contact a lawyer in the next few days, because I do not intend to pay the fine”, she confides to CheckNews.
Also last Saturday, another woman, wearing a La France insoumise badge, was also fined for a prohibited demonstration. In March 2019, on the occasion of Act XIX of the yellow vests movement, a woman and a man were also fined for “Participation in a demonstration on public roads prohibited”. They were dressed in a sweater with the inscription “Yes to the RIC, I say yes to the popular initiative referendum”, a “Evidence that the offender is a demonstrator”, in the words of the police officer, recorded in the report.
Fatoumata Diallo and Pierre Zéau
This article was produced as part of a partnership with the CFPJ for the application journal for promotion 53.