Illegal Balaclavas

In France protesting the sentencing of Pussy Riot can earn you time in the slammer.

Last year, the government of France passed a law banning the wearing of face covering in public. At the time, it was obvious that the law was sparked by anti-Muslim sentiments, and couched in the language of freedom for women. This week, the true consequences of that law were revealed when several people protesting the sentencing of the Russian band Pussy Riot, were arrested for the crime of wearing balaclavas.

About 30 demonstrators gathered outside the Russian consulate in the southern French city on Friday to protest against the trial of members of the feminist group famous for wearing bright dresses and colourful balaclavas.

But police swooped on about seven wearing multicoloured face-masks in solidarity with the band, reported La Provence. Asked why the police had stopped the demonstrators who had been standing peacefully behind a banner about the power of poetry, a senior officer told the newspaper: “They are wearing balaclavas in a public space. It’s illegal.” He said the demonstrators would be questioned and a report written.

The people arrested in Marseille even acquiesced to the police request to remove the offending material, and were still detained.

The Marseille protesters – including poets, a book editor, and a former culture official – who had removed their masks at police request, were put in a riot van and driven to the nearest police station amid cries of “Absurd!” and “Ridiculous!”. They were released that afternoon. Under the law, the case can be referred to a local judge who can hand down a €150 fine, a citizenship course or both.

So, people who are peacefully protesting can be sentenced to attending a citizenship course. It seems to me that these seven people were showing the true meaning of citizenship by peacefully protesting, and should be instructors at any such course.

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