Victoria scales back troop request, saying ADF won’t undertake security work in revamped hotel quarantine program

The Victorian Government says Australian Defence Force members will not be taking part in any security work or floor monitoring in the state’s revamped hotel quarantine program, which will resume next week.

A Government spokesperson said more than 100 ADF members had started arriving in Melbourne on Friday and would be ready to start training on Saturday ahead of the resumption of international arrivals to Melbourne.

Victoria will start accepting international arrivals again on Monday after Premier Daniel Andrews asked for all international flights to be diverted from Melbourne on June 30 as the state’s coronavirus second wave gathered pace.

The remainder of the ADF contingent was expected to arrive in Melbourne by Tuesday and would be inducted by Victoria Police throughout the week.

The Government said it had revised its Defence Force request and had now asked the Commonwealth to provide 172 ADF personnel to support the hotel quarantine program.

“The original request from Victoria has been scaled back after the ADF advised that they were not able to undertake any security type work or perform floor monitoring roles in the health hotels,” a Government spokesperson said in a statement.

The statement said Victoria Police would instead play that security role in all quarantine hotels “which they are already trained, rostered and ready to do, as well as continuing to undertake floor monitoring in the health hotels”.

The spokesperson said the ADF personnel would support police by helping residents on entry and exit, as well as registering staff movements and temperature-checking workers before their shifts.

Troops arrive for ‘Operation COVID-19 Assist in Melbourne’

A Defence spokesperson said the ADF was working closely with the Victorian Government to determine how it could best support the hotel quarantine of international arrivals in Victoria.

“The members will not be authorised as law enforcement officers and will be working in support of Victoria Police at hotels across Melbourne,” the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson said 75 members of Army’s 3rd Brigade flew from Townsville to Melbourne late on Friday, and 35 members from RAAF East Sale had also been deployed on “Operation COVID-19 Assist in Melbourne”.

The members were due to “undergo ADF task-specific and Victorian Government mandatory training this weekend,” the spokesperson said.

Defence Force members worked alongside police during Victoria’s devastating second wave.(ABC News: Gemma Hall/File)

Victoria’s revamped hotel quarantine program follows failures in the earlier program where 90 per cent of the infections in the state’s second wave could be traced back to a family of four who served their quarantine period at the Rydges on Swanston hotel.

The decision to use private security has been widely blamed for the virus escaping quarantine, causing Victoria’s devastating coronavirus second wave.

An inquiry into the program was told it had failed to meet its primary objective, which was to keep the community safe from COVID-19.

Victoria announces quarantine fees up to $3k per adult

Meanwhile, overseas travellers arriving in Melbourne could be asked to pay thousands of dollars towards their quarantine costs under laws being introduced to Victoria’s Parliament next week.

Fees will be set at $3,000 per adult, $1,000 for each additional adult in a room, and $500 for children aged between three and 18 years.

There will be no charge for children under three.

Children under 18 travelling alone will be charged a co-payment of $500, but a parent or guardian joining the child in quarantine will not be charged a fee.

The State Government said charging for hotel quarantine would bring Victoria into line with other states and territories.

“It also ensures that when international flights to Victoria resume, we do not get a disproportionate number of returned travellers seeking to complete their mandatory quarantine period here to avoid the fees in other states,” Police Minister Lisa Neville said.

Fee reductions or waivers will be available to people experiencing financial hardship.

Payment plans will also be available to all residents.

The quarantine fees will kick in once the legislation is approved.

More information on Victoria’s mandatory quarantine program, which will start up again when international arrivals resume next week, is available on the Government’s website:

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Georgia SOS Approved Drop Boxes but Security Concerns Not Addressed

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, and the Georgia State Election Board authorized the use of 300 absentee ballot drop boxes for the November 3, 2020, general election, beginning 49 days before the election, in a July 2020 election code rule.

Phill Kline, director of the Amistad Project of the Thomas More Society, said that a number of election security concerns were not addressed in Georgia’s election code rule regarding the use of absentee ballot drop boxes in Georgia and elsewhere.

“Who were the vendors that collected the ballots from the drop boxes? Where are the logs of their receipt by the vendor at the drop box and subsequent delivery to the election board? How do we know that these ballots were not tampered with, or that a number of them were not discarded along the way from the drop box to the election board?” Kline said to Breitbart News in an exclusive interview.

Last week, the Amistad Project filed a lawsuit “contesting the results of the 2020 presidential election in Georgia, citing expert opinion that well over 100,000 illegal votes were improperly counted, while tens of thousands of legal votes were not counted.”

Breitbart News contacted the Georgia Secretary of State’s office for a response to Kline’s criticisms. Specifically, Breitbart News asked if the secretary of state’s office keeps copies of the ballot transfer forms required under the election code rule any time absentee ballots are transferred from the ballot drop box to the election offices and if those forms have been reviewed and monitored for time of delivery and chain of custody. A spokesperson for the secretary of state’s office said each county kept those forms.

Breitbart News has contacted election officials in several counties in Georgia to confirm whether they are maintaining all the ballot transfer forms used during the November 3 election and has not yet received a response from any of the counties contacted.

Many of these absentee ballot drop boxes were paid for by a private party — the Mark Zuckerberg-funded Center for Technology and Civic Life (CTCL), which made the placement of these drop boxes a requirement for local counties that received grants and also funded additional election workers who transported ballots from the drop boxes to local election offices.

As Breitbart News reported this month, the CTCL provided more than $15 million in grants to three metropolitan Atlanta counties that accounted for more than 76 percent of Joe Biden’s 2020 net margin gain over Hillary Clinton’s performance in 2020:

Most of Joe Biden’s 221,751 vote margin gain in Georgia, compared to Hillary Clinton’s performance in 2016, came from three metropolitan Atlanta counties that received more than $15 million from the Mark Zuckerberg-funded Center for Technology and Civic Life (CTCL) “safe elections” project.

Those three counties — Cobb, Fulton, and Gwinnett — accounted for 168,703 of Biden’s 221,751 vote margin gain, or 76 percent.

In 2016, Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in Georgia by 211,141 votes, 2,089,104 to 1,877,963, according to the Georgia Secretary of State’s election website.

With 99 percent of precincts reporting as of 2:00 p.m. Eastern time on Monday, November 9, Democratic nominee Joe Biden was leading Donald Trump by 10,610 votes, 2,466,540 to 2,455,930, according to Real Clear Politics.

This currently represents a 221,751 vote gain in margin of votes cast for Joe Biden over Donald Trump in 2020 compared to the margin of votes cast for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton in 2016.

In the 49 days preceding the 2020 November general election, Fulton County (area: 534 square miles) had 37 absentee ballot drop boxes (one for every 14.4 square miles), Gwinnett County (area: 437 square miles) had 24 absentee ballot drop boxes (one for every 18.2 square miles), and Cobb County (area: 345 square miles) had ten drop boxes (one for every 34.5 square miles).

The state of Georgia has an area of 59,425 square miles spread over 159 counties, with 1,316 square miles of that in Fulton, Gwinnett, and Cobb Counties, and 58,109 square miles in the 156 other counties, where 229 absentee ballot drop boxes were located (one for every 253.7 square miles).

Election Code rule 183-1-14-0.8-.14, adopted by the Georgia State Election Board in a special meeting called on July 1, 2020, specified that every absentee ballot drop box collection team “shall complete and sign a ballot transfer form upon removing the ballots from the drop box” but failed to proved adequate security procedures to monitor and provide for audit capabilities of those ballot transfer forms:

Prior to the second Monday before Election Day, the county registrars must arrange for collection of the ballots from each drop box at least once every 72 hours.

Beginning on the second Monday before Election Day and up until 7:00 p.m. on Election Day, the county registrars must arrange for collection of the ballots from each drop box location at least once every 24 hours. On Election Day, every drop box shall be closed and ballots collected at 7:00 p.m. Collection of ballots from a drop box must be made by a team of at least two people.

Any person collecting ballots from a drop box must have sworn an oath in the same form as the oath for poll officers set forth in O.C.G.A. § 21-2-95. The collection team shall complete and sign a ballot transfer form upon removing the ballots from the drop box, which shall include the date, time, location and number of ballots. After emptying the drop box on 7:00 p.m. on Election Day, the collection team shall close the drop box and indicate on the ballot transfer form that the drop box was emptied and closed. The ballots from the drop box shall be immediately transported to the county registrar and processed and stored in the same manner as absentee ballots returned by mail are processed and stored. The county registrar or a designee thereof shall sign the ballot transfer form upon receipt of the ballots from the collection team. [emphasis added]

Authority: O.C.G.A. §§ 21-2-31, 21-2-386

Each of the 300 absentee ballot drop boxes should have a total of at least 22 separate ballot transfer forms, each dated — 14 submitted and signed at least every 72 hours between September 15 (49 days before the November 3 election) and eight submitted and signed each day between October 26 and November 3.

These completed ballot transfer forms are kept by the local election offices, where they are available for inspection by the secretary of state’s office, judges, or any resident of Georgia who submits a Georgia Open Records request. There is no indication that the secretary of state’s office has instructed its investigators to review the ballot transfer forms stored in local election offices.

O.C.G.A. 21-2-31 identifies ten specific duties of the State Election Board, most of which relate to the promulgation of election code rules “that are consistent with the law.”

O.C.G.A. 21-2-386 addresses, “Safekeeping, certification, and validation of absentee ballots; rejection of ballot; delivery of ballots to manager; duties of managers; precinct returns; notification of challenged elector,” but does not appear to authorize the use of absentee ballot drop boxes, nor does it include language that would authorize the secretary of state or the State Election Board to direct local election officials to use absentee ballot drop boxes.

Only eight states have statutes that specifically authorized the use of absentee ballot drop boxes. Georgia is not one of those states, as LawFare blog reported:

Only eight states—Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington state—have explicit language about ballot drop boxes written into their laws. However, many more states provide ballot drop boxes or otherwise permit counties and other election officials to place ballot drop boxes for voters to use. All told, 40 states (and Washington, D.C.) will have ballot drop boxes available in one or more locations in 2020, while just 10 states will not have drop boxes. Due to the coronavirus response, the use of ballot drop boxes during the 2020 general election will likely be the largest in American history.

Tennessee is one of the ten states that did not use ballot drop boxes in the 2020 general election. Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett raised security concerns about the use of drop boxes in Congressional testimony in July, as the Associated Press reported:

Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota asked Hargett why Tennessee doesn’t have drop boxes, since officials are concerned nationally about U.S. Postal Service delays with the huge influx of by-mail ballots across the country. Drop boxes are not among the several issues currently being targeted in lawsuits over Tennessee’s absentee voting during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Frankly, it’s an anti-coercion methodology,” Hargett responded. “If you look at it, if someone knows you’ve got an absentee ballot and they can say, ‘Hey, I’ll be glad to take that for you and drop that off for you,’ they can ask you what you filled that ballot out or they can not turn it in at all for you.”

Last week, “The Georgia State Election Board extended two emergency rules governing absentee-by-mail voting, continuing the use of secure drop boxes and now requiring counties to process absentee ballots starting the week before Election Day,” as Georgia Public Broadcasting reported:

In the Monday meeting, the five-member board, chaired by Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, voted to extend the use of 24/7-monitored secure drop boxes through the Jan. 5 runoff. The rule was most recently approved this summer, but was set to expire late December.

The second rule continues to allow counties to begin processing absentee ballots two weeks before Election Day, but now requires them to start handling those ballots no later than the Monday before the Jan. 5 runoff.

“The number of absentee ballot requests that we’re seeing for the runoff is large as well, so if we want results at any time quickly, I think we’re going to need to do this,” general counsel Ryan Germany said. “The last week before the election, it becomes mandatory to do processing and scanning.”

Absentee ballot drop boxes were first used in Georgia during the state’s June 9 primary, authorized by the State Election Board in an April 2020 meeting, “as a way to help voters avoid human contact during the coronavirus pandemic,” the Atlanta-Journal Constitution reported.

No Georgia statute authorizes the use of absentee ballot drop boxes, and there is no indication on the State Election Board website that the board passed an election rule as it is required to do by law for any election procedures that are authorized by Georgia law.

The link to transcribed minutes of the meetings of the State Election Board in 2020 does not currently work (as of Monday, November 30) so minutes of the April 2020 meeting are not available to the public, though meetings from 2019 and before are available to the public because those links do work.

The Zuckerberg-funded CTCL announced last week that it will provide funding for absentee ballot drop box funding for the critical January 5 U.S. Senate runoffs to any county in Georgia that applies.

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Protect Your Home With These Discounted Wyze Smart Security Cameras – Review Geek


Looking to ramp up your smart home security rig this holiday season? As part of a Cyber Monday sale, Amazon currently has the Wyze Cam v2 (in one and two packs) and the Wyze’s Pan Cam  on discount, ranging from $20 up to $40.

If you already have a smart home going, you’ll be happy to know that these cameras support both Amazon’s Alexa, Google Assistant, and their respective ecosystems. This means you’ll be able to view your camera’s live feed by simply asking your digital assistant, even if you’re not home.

The cameras record 12-second clips when it detects motion. You’ll have the option to have all your clips saved for free for up to 14 days in the cloud. Or, if you’d rather keep everything stored locally, you can do so by way of microSD cards.

When it comes to the Pan Cam, it gives you the ability to pan, tilt, and zoom. This makes it perfect for larger rooms where you may need to constantly shift focus. However, the functionality comes at a cost. The panning motor is obnoxiously loud as mentioned in our review.

It’s worth noting that the cameras that are on sale today are the v2 models, and not the just-announced v3 ones, which we’ve reviewed here. The bigger differences between the generations are smoother video, better night vision, and more accessible two-way talk. All cameras from both generations can capture video up to 1080p HD.

You may notice that the Wyze website always lists these prices, but Wyze adds shipping when you order direct. Ordering Wyze products from Amazon usually costs more, but offers Prime shipping. You end up paying the same either way. Now with these lower prices and Prime shipping you get fastest shipping for the fewest dollars.

What are you waiting for? Protect your home. Buy one (or two, or three) of these now!

Standard 1080p HD Camera

Double the fun!

Pan, Tilt, and Zoom!

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Xi Jinping Is Using Economic Games to Endanger America’s National Security

Regional experts sometimes call China’s economy a state capitalist model. Sometimes they call it neomerchantalist. Sometimes they call it “socialism with Chinese characteristics.” The common thread involves some blend of authoritarian politics mixed with market economics. Such characterizations might have held up through Jiang Zemin’s presidency, but have become misnomers under the presidency of Xi Jinping.

Since consolidating power, Xi has remade the bureaucracy. His changes, coupled with external pressures such as the trade dispute with the United States, have created a new Chinese domestic economy that’s walled off from much of the rest of the world. It most closely resembles an app store or an online sales platform: the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) serves as the gatekeeper and aggregator of the Chinese domestic market.

Western firms know that to enter the Chinese market, they must enter into joint ventures or share intellectual property with Chinese enterprises, which are often state-owned. This requirement by the CCP is similar to the way many online platforms (Apple, Google, Amazon) allow sellers on their websites, but then harvest the data to use and resell themselves.

This practice was once carried out only by private firms making lower-value goods. But in recent years it seems to have become more purposeful and strategic, orchestrated by state-owned and state-affiliated firms under the direction of the CCP. More and more frequently the CCP intervenes on behalf of its own state-owned champions and preferred private domestic firms, creating an unfair playing field, and allowing state-backed competitors to gain an insurmountable advantage with little invested into research and development. The IP Commission Report finds that the leakage in intellectual property costs American companies more than $225 billion per year. Under previous administrations, the requirement to share technology and unwillingly take on partners seemed to be coming down. However, these barriers have been erected higher than ever by Xi’s government.

Once a firm is playing by Xi’s rules, disobedience will not be tolerated and the terms of agreements can quickly be annulled. Any criticism of the CCP will certainly not be tolerated.  

Recent sharp comments regarding financial regulation by Jack Ma are widely understood to have derailed Ant Group’s initial public offering, which was slated to be the world’s largest listing. Further, if a business attempts to organize and advocate for its rights, as Sun Dawu has done, the state can step in and strip the entrepreneur of the business and even bring criminal charges. Applying the app store analogy, one can see parallels in the recent dispute between Fortnite creator Epic Games and Apple. Criticism of the regulator will not be tolerated no matter the harm to the regulator or the businesses and employees involved. The CCP owns the platform and it will show any business it is the boss.  

While the CCP can deplatform any company that criticizes it or that tries to stand up for its rights it also has a stable of in-house products and services to sell. Like any online business that owns a platform, the CCP steers customers toward its preferred choices. The CCP’s state-owned firms, particularly banks, stand in for preferred or promoted apps subsidized by the state. Chinese businesses and consumers do have a choice among state competitors and state preferred companies, particularly at the local level, where competition can be fierce. Still, even ostensibly private firms have close links to the CCP which makes the line between state-owned and private fuzzy.

While the economic and political reforms overseen by Deng Xiaoping allowed China to rack up unprecedented growth, China under Xi is building walls and creating a ring-fenced market weighted toward CCP in-house favorites. Competition from foreign investors has been undermined in sector after sector, and the state has become more involved in the day-to-day internal affairs of private business. When a private sector firm tries to stand up for its rights, it is quickly sanctioned.  

Xi’s new economy is not the Chinese economy of the 2008 summer Olympics, with fast growth and some room for differences of opinion on policy. The CCP has become the platform and it is pay-to-play. Businesses from democratic states must understand what they are giving up to enter Xi’s closed ecosystem. The music has changed and this is a whole new dance. 

Eric Hontz is Deputy Regional Director for Europe and Eurasia at the Center for International Private Enterprise.

Image: Reuters

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French protesters demand Macron drop police identity clause from security law

Pressure is growing on President Emmanuel Macron’s government to abandon a provision in a draft bill curtailing the ability to publish photos or video of police, after big protests across France on Saturday.

Demonstrators came out en masse in cities from Paris to Lyon, despite a month-old Covid-19 lockdown, in opposition to the government’s “general security” law that they said impinged on press freedom.

The minister of the interior estimated crowds of 133,000 nationally, while organisers claimed 500,000. In Paris, there were 46,000 demonstrators, according to officials.

The protests rivalled the size of the gilets jaunes movement’s early protests in 2018. While largely peaceful, small groups burnt cars, destroyed property and threw stones at the police. About 46 people were arrested in Paris, according to officials, and 37 police officers were injured.

At issue is Article 24 of the security law, which will make it a crime punishable by a year in prison and a €45,000 fine to “publish, by any means and in any medium, the face or any other identifying feature other than their official identity number” of a police officer or gendarme “with the manifest aim of causing them physical or psychological harm”.

It is the latest of several government edicts and pieces of legislation introduced by Mr Macron in recent months to tackle crime and terrorism before and after a series of high-profile incidents including the beheading of a teacher by an Islamist terrorist in October and a knife attack in Nice.

Interior minister Gérald Darmanin has been pushing for Article 24 to address police unions’ concerns about officers’ identities being revealed online, or harassment. 

French media organisations and leftwing and liberal politicians argued the amendment was written too broadly, and that its real purpose was to stop the media from examining incidents of police brutality.

They point to an incident on Tuesday when police were filmed using harsh tactics to dismantle a camp of tents set up at Place de la République in Paris by migrants and activists to protest against lack of accommodation for the homeless. An update to a police investigation is due to be published on Sunday night.

In another incident, online media outlet Loopsider on Thursday posted footage of officers beating up a black music producer in his studio, and dragging him and other young men into the street with little explanation.

The man, Michel Zecler, told Loopsider he had feared for his life, and said he did not know why the police had followed him into his studio, although he admitted he was not wearing a face mask as required under Covid-19 restrictions. 

Mr Darmanin was quick to condemn the incident, saying he would request the officers be dismissed once an investigation was done. “They have sullied the uniform of the Republic,” he said.

In an interview with the Journal du Dimanche, Frédéric Veaux, who leads the national police force, said he was “shocked” by the Loopsider video, as were “all of the members of the police in this country”. He said he could not make a definitive judgment while the inquiry continued, but added the public could count on the police to “treat the events with extreme severity once those responsible have been identified”.

Mr Veaux pushed back on the idea there was a wider problem with the police force. “For me, the relationship between citizens and the police has not been wrecked,” he said.

“Splinter groups choose disorder, call into question our institutions, and actively foment provocations against the police. We have seen . . . inhibitions against committing violence against the police fall away.” 

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Protests Over Security Bill in France Draw Tens of Thousands

PARIS — Tens of thousands of people took to the streets across France on Saturday to protest a security bill that would restrict sharing images of police officers and strengthen government surveillance tools, the latest sign that anger over recent cases of police violence is galvanizing opposition.

Media organizations and human rights groups held rallies in dozens of cities including Paris, Bordeaux and Lyon. All raised alarm about the new bill, saying it could curb freedom of the press and limit police accountability.

“Rather than trying to solve problems, this law seeks to cover up blunders,” said Nicolas Gonnot, a 50-year-old computer engineer who demonstrated in Paris.

Tensions in France have been rising over President Emmanuel Macron’s broader security policies, which opponents say increasingly restrict civil liberties. The frictions have grown in part in the wake of a string of Islamist terrorist attacks over the past few months.

Many of the demonstrators consider the new security bill a drift toward repression in government policy and further evidence of the government’s slide to the right.

One of the most disputed elements of the bill is a provision that would criminalize the broadcasting of “the face or any other identifying element” of on-duty police officers if the goal is to “physically or mentally harm” them.

The government has said that this provision is intended to protect police from online abuses. But critics argue that the wording is so open-ended that it could dissuade citizens and journalists from filming the police and holding them accountable.

Another provision of the bill authorizes the use of drones to film citizens in public and allow footage from body cameras worn by police to be livestreamed to authorities.

The bill has brought widespread condemnation from the French press, human right organizations, as well as from the country’s defender of rights, an independent ombudsman that monitors civil and human rights. The ombudsman said the bill posed “considerable risks” to the freedom of information and the right to privacy.

The bill, which the lower house of Parliament passed this week, still needs to be considered by the Senate and the government has faced mounting pressure to rewrite or remove key provisions from it. Hugues Renson, a powerful lawmaker in Mr. Macron’s parliamentary majority, told the newspaper Le Figaro: “When there is so much resistance to a measure, it is sometimes better to give it up than to persist.”

In another sign that the government could be preparing to backtrack, Prime Minister Jean Castex announced on Friday that he would appoint an independent commission to help redraft the disputed provision on the broadcasting of images of police officers.

The protest in Paris thundered from the Place de la République, a large plaza in the center of the French capital, as a tide of people waving signs reading “Who watches the watchmen?” or “Democracy under attack.” Some 50,000 people participated in the Paris protest, according to authorities.

Standing among the crowd, Dominique Beaufour, a 63-year-old retiree, said that the situation was “getting worse” in France, with an increased and unchecked police activity in daily life.

Although the protests across France were mostly peaceful, some violent clashes erupted later in the day between demonstrators and security forces. Some protesters smashed shop windows and set cars and a cafe on fire in Paris, while the police responded by firing tear gas and using water cannons.

“They’ve crossed a line,” said Laurent Sebaux, a protester and supporter of President Macron who added that the bill represented a betrayal of the liberal ideals that Mr. Macron defended when he rose to power in 2017.

The demonstration in Paris took place on the same plaza where, only days earlier, the police violently cleared out a temporary migrant camp. It also came on the heels of a nationwide outcry over images showing police officers repeatedly pummeling a Black music producer for several minutes.

Opponents of the bill seized upon the footage to argue that, by placing restrictions on sharing videos of police officers, the new bill would prevent such violence from being reported.

Authorities said that four police officers were detained for questioning on Friday over the beating of the music producer and were suspended from duty.

In a statement on his Facebook page on Friday, Mr. Macron said that the images of the beating “shame us,” adding that “France must never resign itself to violence or brutality, no matter where it comes from.”

As French authorities grapple with growing accusations of structural racism and brutality in policing, Mr. Macron said that he had asked the government to come up with proposals to restore the public’s confidence in the police — a demand he has already made twice this year.

“In 2015, we hugged the police,” said Ms. Beaufour, referring to the wave of solidarity for police officers that emerged after the 2015 terror attacks. “Now, we run away from them.”

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Thousands protest in France against new security bill – POLITICO

Thousands of protestors hit the streets of France Saturday to demonstrate against a controversial draft security law that would criminalize sharing images of police officers if done for “malicious purposes.”

In Paris, 46,000 people gathered against the bill, according to the interior ministry. Police fired tear gas and stun grenades as some protesters lit fires and hurled rocks and fireworks at the security forces during an otherwise peaceful march.

Protesters also demonstrated in other French cities, such as Lille, Rennes and Strasbourg.

Many were also demonstrating against police violence, after the brutal treatment of Black music producer Michel Zecler at the hands of the police last weekend.

The focus of much of the anger on Saturday, fanned by the violent beating of Zecler caught on video, is the law’s 24th article, which says that those who distribute either video footage or photographic images of on-duty police officers with the intention of causing them harm could face prison sentences and fines.

A wide range of critics across French society say the controversial new security bill will curb press freedom, but President Emmanuel Macron and his Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin have pushed ahead with it nonetheless, hoping it would cast them as tough defenders of the French police, and law and order.

After the bill was passed by the lower chamber of the French parliament earlier this week (senators are yet to scrutinize the bill), Prime Minister Jean Castex said an independent committee would revisit the contentious article. However, Castex was forced into an embarrassing U-turn on the scope of the committee Friday, after a backlash from MPs and senators.

On Friday, Macron condemned the treatment of Zecler. “The images we all saw of the beating of Michel Zecler are unacceptable. They shame us,” the French president said in a statement posted on Facebook and Twitter. 

Saturday’s protests were attended by a mix of journalists, civil liberties activists, and Yellow Jacket protesters, Reuters reported.

Criticism has come from farther afield too. The European Commission weighed in last week, saying that French journalists should be able to “do their work freely and in full security,” echoing similar concerns from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights at the United Nations.

Nine arrests were made later on Saturday, the authorities said, according to the BBC. Darmanin condemned “unacceptable” violence against the police.

This article has been updated.

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