(Bloomberg) -- French police and courts were overwhelmed by Saturday’s riots, and imposing a state of emergency would have made little difference, government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said in an interview on France Inter radio Monday.
Banning demonstrations would do little good because “people who show up with baseball bats to destroy property don’t usually ask for permission,” Griveaux said. He said courts Saturday had to deal with more than three times as many arrests as on a normal weekend, after the ‘Yellow Vest” protests degenerated.
Griveaux and Interior Minister Christopher Castaner were asked in interviews over the weekend whether emergency law could be imposed, and both responded that all options were being looked at, leading to press speculation the government was considering it. “When you face a situation like this, you always consider all possibilities,” Griveaux said.
French police unions have asked for a the reinstatement of the emergency law that was imposed after 2015’s terror attacks. The emergency rule was lifted in 2017 after some of its elements were written into the regular criminal code. The main argument cited by police unions is that the regular law allows for administrative arrests only of terror suspects, not for maintaining public order.
The grassroots movement, organized through social media and without real leadership, has led to two weeks of sporadic and mostly peaceful blockades of roads, fuel depots and warehouses. A protest Saturday in Paris exploded into violence that left over 100 injured and more than 400 arrested, as well as burned cars and looted stores in the heart of the capital.
Named after the colored vests motorists must keep in their cars for emergencies, the campaign began as a protest against higher gasoline taxes to reduce emissions. It’s now expanded to other demands and has the support of three-quarters of the French public, polls show.
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