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Several thousand people protested in Paris on Saturday against a bill that would make it a crime to circulate an image of a police officer’s face with the intention that they should be harmed.

Supporters say police officers and their families need protection from harassment, both online and in person when off duty.

Opponents say the law would infringe journalists’ freedom to report, and make it harder to hold police accountable for abuses such as excessive use of force – a growing public concern. The offence would carry a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a 45,000-euro ($53,000) fine.

On the Trocadero Square in western Paris, rights activists, trade unionists and journalists chanted “Everybody wants to film the police!” and “Freedom!”, as police wearing riot gear stood by around the square.

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Many demonstrators wore the high-visibility jackets of the “Yellow Vest” movement that started a wave of anti-government protests two years ago.

Some held signs that read “We’ll put down our (smart)phones when you put down your weapons”.

Similar demonstrations were planned in Marseille, Lille, Montpellier, Rennes, Saint-Etienne and Nice.

In Paris, police clashed with demonstrators at the end of the protest. By 7:45pm, 23 people had been arrested and a police officer slightly injured, the police prefecture tweeted.

Edwy Plenel, chief editor of the investigative news website Mediapart, said the proposed legislation was “a green light for the worst elements in the police”.

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