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Chemical markers used in demonstration against the thugs

The gendarmes are experimenting with striking products in demonstrations to identify the thugs, according to information from The cross. On Saturday March 26, the gendarmerie tested this device in a rally against a project for water reserves – “mega-basins” – in Deux-Sèvres. The weapon in question, a “paintball” type rifle, sends projectiles used to mark demonstrators suspected of being perpetrators of offences.

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“These means are still at the experimental stage”explains the Ministry of the Interior to The cross. In Deux-Sèvres, the device was used “taking into account the risk of committing offences”, he adds, without specifying whether it has been useful. Contacted, the national gendarmerie does not wish to comment for the moment.

“This is the experimental phase, we need feedback from the field before we can define whether it will be permanent”, indicates a secure source. The General Directorate of the National Police ensures that it “does not use striking ammunition today”. “The police water launchers have a reserve of marking product, but I don’t remember any use”abounds a police source.

Resistant for several weeks

Coded marking products (PMC) are most of the time completely invisible, colorless and odorless. They have been used in particular in the protection of businesses against robberies for several years. They apply a unique code to the medium to which they are projected. The product can last several weeks on the skin and on the clothes. The goal is to mark individuals who cannot be the subject of immediate arrest, to identify them a posteriori. Revealed by an ultraviolet ray lamp, the product becomes fluorescent.

In demonstrations, PMCs can be projected directly via launchers, mixed with tear gas, or even with water from water launcher trucks. After the first acts of the demonstrations of the yellow vests, Prime Minister Édouard Philippe announced in March 2019 their use “very soon”without the authorities communicating since. “We can say: such a day at such a time, you were in front of such a store”, warned Christophe Castaner, then Minister of the Interior. The idea is, for example, to mark someone who attacks the police, or vandalizes windows.

An unknown spray?

On March 15, lawyers suspected the use of PMC on the island of Corsica, agitated by strong social mobilizations after the attack in prison and then the death of Yvan Colonna. “We have been warned by several testimonies of a control of high school students in Ajaccio. The police had sprayed two people with a spray that we did not know “retraces Mand Jean-Francois Casalta.

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The group of lawyers to which he belongs, Sustegnu Ghjuventù, wrote to the prosecutor to denounce the use of a “PMC-type spray”. In a letter seen by The crossthe coordinating sub-prefect for security in Corsica Michel Tournaire is categorical: the Corsican police “do not have coded branding products”, “no vaporization device could therefore be used”.

Fragility of evidence

Experimentation in the context of policing raises questions. Can a projected product suffice to incriminate an individual within a crowd? “Like any other piece of evidence, it must necessarily be corroborated by other clues and data from the investigation”recalls the gendarmerie on its site.

“In the changing context of a demonstration, the marking product has a significant chance of hitting someone who is not targeted, while the targeted person tries to escape the shot, notes Paul Rocher, author of Gas, maim, submit (La Fabrique Editions, 2020). Then establishing the link between marking and guilt will be complicated. » The economist also notes that a “soft head bullet”an ammunition that may contain a marking product, can injure in the same way as a ball from a defense ball launcher (LBD), citing examples of use in the United States.

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PMCs “may not change the face of the world, but they are complementary tools that will allow more precise identification of troublemakers”predicted General Richard Lizurey, then director general of the gendarmerie, in a senatorial report in March 2019. They could be used in the context of future social mobilizations, after the second round of the presidential election.


Maintaining order in contact

After the first demonstrations of the yellow vests at the end of 2018, the political authorities made policing take an offensive turn. More mobile units are projected, such as rapid action detachments that have become BRAV-M or police officers on motorcycles responsible for dispersing crowds and arresting. At the same time, the use of so-called intermediate weapons is intensifying, first and foremost rubber ball defense launchers (LBD), blamed for their imprecision.

In 2020, the executive writes in a text the doctrine of the maintenance of order. This is the National Law Enforcement Scheme (SNMO). The aim is to clarify practices and improve dialogue between police and organisers. That same year, the GLI-F4 explosive grenade, considered too dangerous, was abandoned. It is replaced by the GM2L which can also seriously injure. The SNMO is updated at the end of 2021 with a version which is more respectful of the work of journalists and which provides a better framework for the trap technique.

Recent protests have seen fewer incidents. The authorities often opt for a technique of tight supervision of the demonstration, where the police unite all around the procession. The doctrine of distancing demonstrators no longer seems privileged.