France takes over the Support. Don’t Punish campaign!

French NGOs have taken part in the Support. Don’t Punish Global Day of Action since the very start. Already in 2013, the Association Française de Réduction des Risques, in partnership with ASUD, AIDES and Fédération Addiction, organised a gathering of over 100 people to take a punchy group photo right in front of the Eiffel Tower, wearing Richard Nixon masks. The action caught the attention of Le Monde and Radio France International.

Since then, the Support. Don’t Punish campaign has grown from strength to strength, involving a large number of civil society partners, people who use drugs, harm reduction service providers, and even politicians! French activists gathered in four cities in 2014, and in eight cities in 2015. At the 2016 Global Day of Action, 18 NGOs worked together to organise events all over the country, in no less than 15 cities – making it the country with most actions held on that year! Events were held in Bezier, Besancon, Nantes, Rennes, Paris, Marseille, Lille, Montpelier, Nancy, Nimes, Nice, Bordeaux, Toulouse, Pau and Brest, as well as Cayenne in French Guyana.

Activities included NGO stands at music festivals, including the well-known techno festival Solidays, ‘Astral Expedisound’ in Brest and ‘Infamous Armada’ in Rennes. Activists gathered for group photos in harm reduction centres in Beziers and Angers, and in front of emblematic buildings – for example on Place de la République in Paris, on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, on the Place de la Comédie in Montpellier, and in front of the statue of Jacques Chaban Delmas in Bordeaux, a public figure known for trying to limit the sale of syringes in pharmacies in the 1970s.

In Pau, Nimes, Nancy, Lille, Nice and Besancon, activists organised sensitisation campaigns targeting the general public to talk about the need to review harmful drug policies in France – opening a useful space for discussions on drugs and drug control.

In Marseille and Toulouse, conferences were organised to discuss harm reduction and options for drug law reform, including the legal regulation of cannabis. Organised by Plus Belle La Nuit, the action in Marseille involved Patrick Mennucci, a local government representative who made a powerful intervention about the need to legalise cannabis to address security issues, social marginalisation and health problems. Similarly, Catherine Lemorton, local government representative and President of the Commission on Social Affairs, participated in the Toulouse debates to show her support for the campaign. Nice and Rennes turned to film broadcasts and debates on the harms of the war on drugs to give visibility to Support. Don’t Punish.

Finally, we were truly touched that two French NGOs used the Global Day of Action to celebrate their anniversaries – with Techno + celebrating their 20 years of existence, and the CAARUD of the Pays de la Loire turning 10 years old.

So far, the Support. Don’t Punish campaign has had a very positive effect in consolidating collaborative work between French civil society organisations, and in opening a dialogue with the general public – even though media coverage remained limited. French activists are now gearing up for this 26th June, with the confirmed participation of 25 cities. Coordinated jointly by Chanvre & Libertés and ECHO, actions will include gatherings, flash mobs, seminars, and a surprise event in Paris… Get in touch if you want to participate, and stay tuned for more info!

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