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French government bans face masks at protests

Article published on the 2009-06-20 Latest update 2009-06-20 15:36 TU

A bacalava.(Photo: Looi via Wikipedia)

A bacalava.
(Photo: Looi via Wikipedia)

The French government has made it illegal for participants in public demonstrations to cover their faces in order to be anonymous. This law is partially a response to masked protesters having clashed with police at the Nato summit in Strasbourg in April.

Interior Minister Michèle Aillot-Marie proposed the law then, and she and Prime Minister François Fillon signed into law Friday, and officially published it Saturday.

The law makes it illegal to "voluntarily conceal one’s face in order not to be identified in situations that could threaten public order.”

The person has to be at or near a protest on public property.

There are exceptions for "protests that comply with local practices our when concealing the face is justified by a legitimate motive,” but it does not specify what a legitimate motive might be.

The fine for breaking the law is 1,500 euros, and 3,000 for a second offence within a year.

At the Nato summit, riot police clashed with people wearing "bacalava" face masks. Also, some rioters were masked during the 2005 civil unrest in France.

On Tuesday the National Assembly is set to start debating a proposed law making it an offence to "participate in a violent group” or gang.

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