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France: Prison sentence for illegal anti-equal marriage protester sparks new protests

Joseph McCormick June 22, 2013
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Equal marriage opponents in France took to the streets on Friday to protest against the prison term given to a man who was part of an illegal anti-equal marriage demonstration, who fled from police, and gave a false identity when caught.

Demonstrations took place in Paris and Bordeaux on Friday evening, against the sentence of two months in prison, two months suspended, and a 1000€ (£850) fine against Nicolas Bernard-Busse, reports RFI.

500 people demonstrated in Paris, and around 200 in Bordeaux, with supporters chanting about a “socialist dictatorship”, against the sentence handed down on Wednesday.

Bernard-Busse’s parents said they did not want the protests to “cede to violence”, however they did describe the sentence as “disproportionate”.

Politicians on the right have claimed that the verdict shows a bias against those opposed to equal marriage, with  former budget minister Valérie Pécresse saying she was “revolted”.

A Facebook page, and petition have been started, describing him as a “political prisoner”, and demanding his immediate release.

The 23-year-old was arrested on 16 June, after demonstrating outside the M6 TV station studios, where President Francois Hollande was being interviewed.

The student was one of about 150 people who went on to demonstrate without permission on the Champs Elysées, which was broken up, but not before 23 people were arrested for refusing to disperse.

Bernard-Busse then ran into a pizzeria, overturned a table and smashed glasses, before being caught. On being arrested he gave a false identity and refused to give fingerprints or DNA.

Out of the 23 arrested, he was the only one to be charged. He was found guilty of wilful damage, as requested by the restaurant owner, as well as rébellion, similar to resisting arrest, and for providing a false identity.

Bernard-Busse’s attitude towards magistrates was also noted in the sentence, which was reported to have been antagonistic, as it was towards police, and he had already been handed a 200€ (£170) suspended fine for refusing to disperse from a demonstration in May.

His sentence was set to start immediately, which was said to be unusual.


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