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France shuts down climate activist group over violent protests

French officials accuse environmental group of 'eco-terrorism

The French government issued a decree on Wednesday shutting down a major climate activist group whose demonstrations have frequently resorted to violence and saw fierce clashes with police earlier this year.

Uprisings of the Earth (SLT) condemned the shutdown as a violation of human rights and an infringement on the French public’s freedom of speech according to reports.

"It's an infringement on freedom of expression, it targets speech and not actions," SLT lawyer Raphael Kempf told Reuters before vowing to contest the decision in the French courts.

Protesters, surrounded by tear gas, clash with riot mobile gendarmes during a demonstration called by the collective ''Bassines non merci'' where more than 3,000 police officers and gendarmes have been mobilized.(Photo by Jerome Gilles/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Head of the French Human Rights League, Patrick Baudouin, echoed this sentiment and said it was "part of a wider trend."

"For the past few months there have been attacks on several freedoms (freedom of protest, expression and association), that primarily concern the ecologist movement," he added.

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg also threw her support behind the group and according to local news outlet France24 stood alongside supporters of the group outside the Council of State in Paris Wednesday and said, "This is about the right to protest, and this is about defending life."

Thunberg said she hopes more people will stand up for the right to protest and demand changes to aid the environment.

However, French officials stood by their decision with France’s Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin calling the aggressive acts carried out by the group’s supports the equivalent to "eco-terrorism" after some activists showed "extreme violence against police forces."

"Under the claim of defending the preservation of the environment... [SLT] encourages sabotage and property damage, including with violence," he said Wednesday.

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