Nicolas Vaux-Montagny – Associated Press – Tuesday, May 28, 2019
Across France, activists have been taking down official portraits of President Emmanuel Macron to protest what they consider his “inaction” against climate change.
Now they face up to 10 years in prison.
The first of several trials targeting the activists opened Tuesday in the eastern town of Bourg-en-Bresse. Some 300 activists showed up to support the six defendants, chanting “We’re all portrait removers!”
The six are accused of “group theft by deceit” and face potential prison terms and substantial fines for taking down Macron’s official presidential portrait from town halls around the country.
They should escape jail time, however. Prosecutor Eric Sandjivy has requested fines of 2,000 euros ($2,240) against five of them for charges of theft and refusal to provide DNA samples.
The other one, charged with theft, faces a 1,000 euro ($1,120) fine. The verdict from Tuesday’s trial will be announced June 12.
Greenpeace France President Jean Francois Julliard defended the activists, saying that the civil disobedience was a way to “to make a mark.”
He said that the activists only resorted to their actions after other tactics failed.
The portrait-removal campaign has called attention to Macron’s pro-business strategy, notably as young people are increasingly taking to the streets to demand more planet-friendly policies and after France’s Greens party saw its support jump in the European Parliament election this week.
Internationally, Macron is a vocal champion of fighting climate change. He sees himself as the guarantor of the U.N.’s 2015 Paris climate accord, and has challenged U.S. President Donald Trump on the issue — notably inviting U.S. scientists to do their research in France under his “Make our Planet Great Again” program.
At home in France, however, activists accuse him of lagging on promises to wean France from fossil fuels.
Nine other trials are scheduled against 36 people accused of taking down 40 Macron portraits.
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