Europe 1 with AFP 10:05 p.m., February 16, 2022

Environmental activists "dropouts" of official portraits of Emmanuel Macron in town halls to protest against the president's "inaction" in climate matters demanded on Wednesday before the Court of Cassation that their actions be recognized as falling within the freedom of expression.

The court will deliver its decision on May 18.

Environmental activists "dropouts" of official portraits of Emmanuel Macron in town halls to protest against the president's "inaction" in climate matters demanded on Wednesday before the Court of Cassation that their actions be recognized as falling within the freedom of expression.

France's highest court will deliver its decision on May 18.

Portraits already won in 2019 in several town halls

In 2019, the 12 activists stole presidential portraits openly and without violence from three Parisian town halls, in Valence and Strasbourg, as part of a national campaign "Decrochons Macron", led by the non-violent Action movement COP21 ( ANV-COP21).

They had been sentenced on appeal in their respective cases to fines ranging from 200 to 500 euros, some suspended, in particular for "meeting theft".

They appealed in cassation against these convictions and the Court examined their files on Wednesday at the same hearing.

In September 2021, seized in a similar case, the Court had quashed a decision of the Bordeaux Court of Appeal having condemned "dropouts" on the grounds that freedom of expression could never justify committing an offense.

She had considered that the Court of Appeal had failed in its obligation to "seek (...) whether the criminal incrimination of the behaviors prosecuted did not constitute (...) a disproportionate attack on the freedom of expression of the defendants" .

"New forms of political action"

The lawyers of the "dropouts" therefore again pleaded on Wednesday that their actions fell within this right guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights and hoped that the Court of Cassation could give "criteria" or a "reading grid" other jurisdictions to decide.

"These are new forms of political action, which remain within the framework of what a pluralist and democratic society can accept," launched Me Paul Mathonnet, for whom these stalls "do not open Pandora's box in triggering anarchy".

The Advocates General have called for the appeals to be dismissed, for different reasons depending on the case, considering either that the Courts of Appeal had already examined "proportionality", or that unlike the Femen activists whose demands are immediately understandable because they are written on their body, these had to be claimed a posteriori, or even that beyond the only symbolic stall, the theft was well constituted by the fact that the militants did not then return the portraits.

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