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Protests resume over controversial French security bill

PARIS, France:  Protest rallies in France against the controversial security bill resumed on Saturday as large crowds of demonstrators gathered in multiple cities and towns amidst snowfall with the police clashing with protesters in at least one city.

According to local media, at least 80 rallies of “freedom march” took place nationwide to denounce the bill.

It is scheduled to be examined in the Senate this month.

The protests were organised by several rights groups including Amnesty International, journalists union CFDT, Guild of authors and reporters documentaries (Garrd), the Association of Independent Cinema for its Diffusion (ACID) and activists of #StopSécuritéGlobaleLaw, an initiative formed by trade union organizations representing journalists and the League of Human Rights.

A statement from the initiative said that President Emmanuel Macron did not respond to their request for discussion and similar requests with the Interior Ministry, the parliamentary group and La République en Marche party went unheeded.

“Faced with the strategy of avoidance and denial, and until our demands are heard, we will mobilize again everywhere in France. We will march on Jan 16, and as long as necessary: for the right to information, against police violence, for the freedom to demonstrate, for the respect of our private life,” the statement said.

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The coalition of groups say the bill once made into law will effectively give a freehand to the police to use excessive force and prohibit citizens from seeking accountability against police violence.

France’s national body on human rights as well as specialised agencies at the UN and European Union have criticised the bill and raised concerns over articles that would pave the way for mass surveillance, violation of privacy laws, personal data, freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of the press.

Equipped with drums, musical instruments and posters, crowds in the capital Paris began to gather around afternoon calling to retract the law.

Local BfMtv reported the protests were largely peaceful and demonstrators began to disperse ahead of the 6.00 pm curfew deadline which came into effect today.

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In Nantes, however, the police threw tear gas and used water cannons at the gathering.

The bill passed in the national assembly in November drew outrage from the general public, trade unions, journalists as well as lawmakers, prompting mass demonstrations.