"We refuse all arbitrary censorship of our art and all refusals of our choice of lifestyle."
- pamphlet at Paris pro-rave demonstration

The rave culture in France took to the streets last week to protest proposed legislation that enthusiasts say threatens the existence of raves, the popular techno dance music parties that are a mainstay of youth culture across the globe. Raves are under attack from social conservatives in part because of allegations of widespread Ecstasy use at the events.

Joined by jugglers, fire-eaters and dance groups, ravers marched by the thousands in Paris, Lille, Lyon, Nantes, Marseilles, and Toulouse last Thursday. In Toulouse, aggressive policing provoked hours of skirmishes with demonstrators around that city's Capitol Square.

According to accounts from Agence France Presse (AFP), riot police in Toulouse fired tear gas at ravers gathered in the square to disperse the crowd, then attempted to move in to make arrests. At least nine police officers were injured in the process, AFP said, and police reported making "several" arrests. No figures on injured demonstrators were available. While police eventually cleared the square, ravers clashed with police in neighboring side streets long into the night.

"We refuse all arbitrary censorship of our art and all refusals of our choice of lifestyle."
- pamphlet at Paris pro-rave demonstration

The rave culture in France took to the streets last week to protest proposed legislation that enthusiasts say threatens the existence of raves, the popular techno dance music parties that are a mainstay of youth culture across the globe. Raves are under attack from social conservatives in part because of allegations of widespread Ecstasy use at the events.

Joined by jugglers, fire-eaters and dance groups, ravers marched by the thousands in Paris, Lille, Lyon, Nantes, Marseilles, and Toulouse last Thursday. In Toulouse, aggressive policing provoked hours of skirmishes with demonstrators around that city's Capitol Square.

According to accounts from Agence France Presse (AFP), riot police in Toulouse fired tear gas at ravers gathered in the square to disperse the crowd, then attempted to move in to make arrests. At least nine police officers were injured in the process, AFP said, and police reported making "several" arrests. No figures on injured demonstrators were available. While police eventually cleared the square, ravers clashed with police in neighboring side streets long into the night.

The tussle in Toulouse was the most violent response to a proposed new public safety law that has outraged ravers, other dance music aficionados and youth culture advocates. An amendment to that law would allow the seizure of sound equipment from raves and fines for organizers who fail to pre-register their events with local authorities. The bill has already been adopted by French lower chamber and awaits approval in the Senate.

In a carnival-like atmosphere (except for Toulouse), protestors marched, danced and shouted chants such as "Tonight we are going to dance, without police, without Mariani," a reference to Member of Parliament Thierry Mariani, the author of the anti-rave amendment.

Calling the amendment "an attack on the freedom of expression," one protest organizer in Lille told AFP, "When you go 300 kilometers (180 miles) to have a party, it's not just to get high. There is a real musical and cultural current behind that."

The French political establishment is by no means unanimous in its attack on rave culture and Ecstasy use. Less than a year ago, Education Minister Jack Lang made waves when he told the newspaper France-Soire that he was encouraging welfare teams to go to raves and test drugs for contaminants and adulterants. Lang's remarks came in the context of a broader statement about dealing with drug use in France. He told the newspaper France needed a "national debate" on drugs. "We should put our cards on the table, working with doctors and educators and not just over cannabis. We should talk about tobacco and alcohol which are much more destructive among the young," said Lang.

On Ecstasy, which is widely consumed in the booming night-scene of raves and techno clubs in Paris and the provinces, Lang said he was encouraging welfare organizations that were sending teams out to test the quality of the drugs being sold.

This was too much for the Federation of Pupils' Parents, which accused Lang of breaching his duty to ensure the moral and civic education of the young. "A drug is still a drug and none is without danger," it said.

The opposition UDF party said that Lang appeared to be advocating legalized ecstasy.

-- END --
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Issue #188, 6/1/01 Editorial: Close Encounters | Zero Tolerance Policies in Schools Under Attack -- New Report Finds No Evidence It Works, Plenty Showing Ill Effects and Racial Bias | Czech Experiment With Repressive Drug Laws Under Fire, Reformers Aim Parliamentary Challenge at "Severa's Amendment" | New York Marijuana Reform Party Gears Up for City, State Races, Attacks NYC Police Tactics | French Ravers March Against Proposed Law, Street Fighting Breaks Out in Toulouse | Mexican Congressman Calls for Legalization, Latin America to Unite Against "US-Imposed Drug Policy" | Action Alerts: Waters Bill, Drug Czar Nomination, HEA, Medical Marijuana | The Reformer's Calendar
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