Eight activists and a filmmaker have gone on trial in Paris on Wednesday over a climate change protest involving removing portraits of French president Emmanuel Macron from public buildings.
The activists allegedly took the portraits from town halls around France and carried them upside down at an anti-G7 march in Bayonne – which neighbours Biarritz, where the G7 summit was held – last month.
Protesters cited what they perceive as inadequate action at home in France on the climate crisis by Macron's government and a rift between that reality and the image the president seeks to portray in relation to climate issues on the international stage.
Macron set an agenda for the G7 group – France, Britain, Canada, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States – that included the defence of democracy, gender equality, education and the environment. He invited Asian, African and Latin American leaders to join in a global push on these issues.
Activists said they removed 125 official portraits of Macron to match the 125 days it took France to overtake its carbon footprint this year.
The defendants are facing a €75,000 fine and jail time of up to five years. Felix Veve, 23, one of those on trial, said: "We hope we will be acquitted because we think that we were completely legitimate and that it is the government which is not acting within the law because it is not respecting the Paris agreement.
"So today we are focused on our trial and we know why we are here. We will keep mobilising to alert and call for action on climate change."
Similar trials were held in cities including Strasbourg and Lyon, and more are expected. According to ANVCOP21, 57 people have been summoned in 17 separate trials on the same charge.
Hundreds of protesters, including Oxfam France executive director Cécile Duflot, gathered outside the tribunal of Paris to support the activists.
Elena, 23, who turned out in support, said: "I think it's absolutely absurd. I think courts have more important cases to deal with. I think that instead of denouncing peaceful actions, the government should be on our side [regarding climate]."
Another protester, who remained anonymous, added: "Today is the trial of the government over climate inaction."