On February 21, 2019, actions of unhooking presidential portraits were launched simultaneously in Paris, Lyon, and the Basque Country (France). On this day, the activists of ANV-COP21 seized 4 official portraits of President Macron to denounce the climate inaction under his presidency. Brandishing banners that read "Climate, social justice: where is Macron?," the activists then launched a call to multiply the campaign throughout the country. Arrests of climate protesters began the following day. On August 25, 2019, the "March of the portraits" for the climate brought together more than 900 people in Bayonne despite the ban on demonstrations during the G7. In the center of Bayonne, official portraits of President Macron sought by police forces resurfaced with the head facing down. A press conference drew up a severe assessment of the Macron government's climate policy and denounced the huge gap between his international speeches on climate and concrete actions in France. Nearly 100 journalists, including many foreign media experts, covered the march and the press conference given by several personalities and climate specialists.
Since the first demonstration, activists have taken 151 Macron’s official portraits off city halls around the country, resulting in 86 searches and 1467 cumulative hours in police custody for 128 activists. 88 people were summoned in 56 trials, facing up to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to 75,000 euros. Most of the demonstrators were discharged on the merits in the name of the state of necessity and freedom of expression. For example, in September 2019, two activists prosecuted for the robbery of a portrait of Emmanuel Macron obtained an acquittal from the Lyon High Court, in the name of the state of necessity. The judgment recognized the insufficiency of public policies to address the climate crisis and the legitimacy of portrait removal actions in a “broken democracy”. In September 2020, three new acquittals were granted by courts in Auch, Strasbourg, and Valence courts, where judges held that condemning the activists would be an attack on freedom of expression. In Valence, the court added that the state of necessity is established by the existence of imminent danger and the absence of disproportion between the means employed and the seriousness of the threat, therefore deciding that unhooking Macron’s portraits to denounce his climate inaction is an act of general interest. The prosecutor's office systematically appealed the acquittals.
On September 22, 2021, the Court of Cassation rejected the state of necessity, but overturned the conviction of eight activists in Bordeaux, holding that unhooking presidential portraits can be a form of expression and that courts must justify that a conviction would not be a disproportionate infringement on freedom of expression. The court also recognized that DNA sampling of some activists was excessive for this type of non-violent action.
No case documents are available.