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Take Down Macron Protester Cases

Jurisdiction: France

Side A: France (Government)

Side B: Delahalle & Goinvic (Individual)

Core objectives: Climate activists successfully claimed that civil disobedience was necessary to bring attention to France's failure to meet its climate targets.

In more than 35 trials, climate protestors across France have defended against theft and refusal to provide DNA charges stemming from their activities as part of the "Take Down Macron" movement. Defendants argued that they had stolen or attempted to steal portraits of the French President, Emmanuel Macron, out of necessity to call attention to France's failure to meet its climate targets. Judgments in the trials ranged from acquittals to fines of hundreds of Euros. Several of the judgments were appealed, with at least three cases reaching their final conclusion as of December 2020. Documents from six of the cases are available below. More documents will be added as they become available.

In one of the trials, in Lyon, two defendants were charged with fraudulently removing the portraits from a town hall in Lyon in February 2019. The prosecutor sought to impose a fine of 500 euros on each defendant. The court heard testimony from a former government minister that France has not complied with the Paris Agreement due to a lack of political will, and that only the president can order the action required by the present situation. An ecologist also testified about the necessity for rapid change in order to limit temperature rise. The defendants argued that the use of legal channels and warnings from scientific experts had not provided sufficient leverage, and they believed that acts of nonviolent civil disobedience were required to raise awareness of the need for policy change.

The court agreed, finding that climate change seriously affects the future of humanity by provoking natural disasters, leading to violent conflicts, and threatening flora and fauna; and that although France is committed to certain measures to address climate change, the defense's submissions showed that the government's objectives will not be achieved. The court concluded that, under these circumstances, citizens' means of expression could not be limited to voting, and that the defendants' theft of the portrait was a necessary substitute for impossible dialogue between the government and the people. The court accordingly acquitted both defendants. 

The prosecutor appealed the judgment, and the appeal hearing is set for December 19, 2020. In other decisions, charges against activists were dismissed, notably in Amiens and in Bordeaux. On Wednesday, May 18, the Court of Cassation upheld the conviction of twelve activists prosecuted in Paris, Strasbourg, and Valence.
Case documents

from the Grantham Research Institute
from the Grantham Research Institute
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