Nearing a year and a half ago now protestors in DC demonstrating against Trump’s inauguration were subjected to mass arrest, in many cases without probable cause. The treatment they received was shameful and illegal (though it is unlikely that any court will ever punish the officers involved), and the prosecutions that followed have been worse. The occupation of a high school in Paris, France on the 22nd of May (coincident with a larger protest march nearby) is now granting the French legal establishment to fuck things up just as badly as we have in the US.
Just recently, news has come to light that US prosecutors had edited the Project Veritas video they were using as evidence in their cases against arrested Trump inauguration protestors, but without notifying the court that it had been edited after the prosecution received it nor providing the unedited video to the defense as the law requires. Almost immediately after that, we learned that the prosecutors actually possessed more than 60 other Project Veritas videos, at least some of which contained exculpatory evidence. Not only had these videos not been provided to the defense, apparently the prosecution had made affirmative statements before the court that they were not in possession of more than one video. We’re used to Project Veritas dishonestly editing their own videos and hiding footage that doesn’t serve their right-wing ends. We’re not used to law enforcement doing it for them.
Though the prosecutors clearly deserve jail time, the seriously pissed off judge is unlikely to order any under her contempt powers, nor are any likely to be convicted of a crime. Instead, the cases against the accused are being dismissed in batches, as if their legal expenses and forced appearances are somehow acceptable because the illegal behavior by the prosecution did not ultimately result in conviction.
The Lycée Arago arrests have not had a chance to lead to prosecutions just yet, but the arrests appear to be every bit as bad as the initial actions against inauguration protestors in the US and the few indictments show that French prosecutors are showing willingness to use tactics of intimidation against the mostly teenage, mostly minor arrestees. Humanité.fr and Syndicat de la Magistrature are using terms like “la violence de l’Etat” and “répression”. The tactics of the police involved are highly reminiscent of those used in the US:
absence de notification de droits, placement pendant des heures dans un fourgon, sans boire, manger ou uriner, impossibilité de prévenir leurs parents
which, in the US context, would mean refusing to provide the Miranda advisory, being locked en mass in vehicles without access to food or water, being denied the opportunity to use a toilet, and with minors being prevented from contacting their parents. Wouldn’t you know it, but all those tactics save the last one are ones I personally know to have been used against the inauguration protestors?
The early course of the prosecution seems to be taking a similar tack as well, with indictments apparently featuring charges related to preparing to commit violence and/or conspiring to commit violence even though no violence actually occurred. In the US, the defendants have been charged with both Riot and Inciting or Urging to Riot (both found in 18 U.S. Code § 2101, each charge punishable by up to 5 years imprisonment). I haven’t been able to track down the exact charges facing French defendants (in part because the earliest defendants have been charged in juvenile courts), but the Humanité.fr article speaks of overcharging as a bullying tactic. In fact, the lawyer interviewed for Humanité.fr is quoted saying that the actions of law enforcement and prosecutors exhibits an intent to create fear, to inflict harm, and to break the political will of a generation:
Il y a eu dans cette affaire une volonté de faire peur, de faire mal, de casser un élan de politisation d’une génération qui se pose des questions.
The behavior is sufficiently egregious that Humanité.fr not only included this quote, but it featured the bulk of it in the title of its article.
It remains to be seen if the French prosecutors will engage in as much distortion and lying before the court as the US did in its quest for power over the Lycée Arago students and others who occupied that high school about 10 days ago, but the early indications are that France and the US have some very shameful behavior in common.