Since mid-July, on 43 occasions, demonstrations have been banned in downtown Toulouse. Beyond the risks linked to the health crisis, the context of the sales or the absence of declaration, the prefecture of Haute-Garonne has regularly justified its issuing of orders for reasons of maintaining public order. Thus, for several months, demonstrations, declared or not, have been confined to the boulevards, the Place du Capitole or that of Saint-Etienne no longer being accessible to claims, as on March 12 with the “Look up” march.
A situation which prompted around twenty associations to send an open letter to the prefect of Haute-Garonne.
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“Banning a demonstration is an exceptional measure, but this has been the case systematically since mid-July. And the decrees often fall barely one or two days before the demonstration, which makes it impossible to appeal to the administrative court”, deplores Pierre Bernard, co-president of the Toulouse Human Rights League, signatories of the letter addressed to the representative of State.
No other examples in France
The latter denounces an attack on the freedom to demonstrate. “Anything that is political claim, it can no longer be done. On the other hand, sometimes other types of demonstrations are authorized, there are double standards. The public road belongs to everyone, ”recalls this defender of public freedoms who believes that Toulouse is a particularity in this area. If since then the “yellow vests” of other cities have been the subject of prohibition orders, particularly in the context of the health context, few are those who have experienced so many since last summer. In Rennes, it is not every week, nor in Lille where often the services of the State go through a modification of the course. This was the case for a long time in Strasbourg during the Covid period, access to the Grand Ile being prohibited. After being denounced, since the drop in the number of cases, these bans have weakened in the Alsatian capital.
In Nancy, the decree of November 16, which prohibited any demonstration in the city center between November 19 and January 2, was challenged before the Administrative Court and suspended by the judges. A right to appeal of which the Toulouse associations consider themselves deprived, having knowledge of the decree only a few days before the holding of the events.
The prefecture for its part believes that it is in compliance with French law which provides for declarations of demonstrations. “It makes it possible to identify the responsible organizers, to define the course of the event, the duration and the methods of organization. The prefect who is in charge of the application of the laws, has the duty to prevent disturbances to public order, risks for all users and to guarantee the exercise of public freedoms “, specifies with 20 Minutes the services of State.
But when the demonstration is not declared, “the absence of an organizer guaranteeing the smooth running of the demonstration and the safety of the participants and third parties increases the risk of disturbances to public order”, argues the prefecture which for each event carries out “a risk analysis which may eventually lead to a ban”. “Moreover, many undeclared demonstrations on Saturday gave rise to repeated overflows”, assures the representative of the State.
Overflows pointed out by downtown merchants. Following the open letter, their federation acclaims the police devices deployed in the hypercentre. “After two years of “yellow vests” in the city center, then the Covid period, now the antivax, hundreds of jobs have been lost because of this succession of events. The same people who fight on a daily basis to defend employment in their companies, come together on Saturdays to destroy the jobs of shopkeepers and their employees, it’s an attitude that we cannot understand”, explains Philippe Léon, his president in a statement.