Apple Sues French Activist Group in Effort to Stop Store Protests

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Apple is suing a French activist group in an attempt to stop a slew of protests at its brick-and-mortar retail locations in the country that have been happening for some time.

The California tech giant is filing a lawsuit against Attac (the Association for the Taxation of Financial Transactions and Aid to Citizens), after about 100 of its proponents occupied the company’s flagship store in Paris in December. The group, among others, has been protesting what they call “wide-scale tax evasion” by Apple, French news outlet The Local reported.

Attac has protested Apple for a variety of reasons in the past, but most recently, its main focus has been Apple’s alleged tax avoidance strategies in Ireland and other tax havens. Last November, the “Paradise Papers” implicated Apple in a wide-ranging report on the illegal tax strategies of the world’s wealthiest people and corporations.

An Apple spokesperson told Agence France-Presse on Thursday that it respected Attac’s right to free expression, but maintained that the flagship protest “put the security of (its) customers and employees at risk.”

Apple is seeking 3,000 euros (about $3,600) from Attac, but the main point of the lawsuit seems to be putting a halt to further protests in its stores. Apple asked for a court order barring Attac from staging further protests at its Apple Store locations — or else face a fine of 150,000 euros.

During the Paris store protest, Attac members blocked the store for several hours on a typically busy pre-Christmas shopping day. They only left the location when Apple employees assured them a meeting with management. According to The Local, Apple did meet with representatives of the group and asked them to refrain from holding further protests due to security concerns.

While Apple maintains that they “fully recognize” Attac’s right to expression, the activist group tells a different store. Dominique Plihon, a spokesperson for the organization, said the lawsuit is a means to “gag Attac and prevent us from holding new citizen actions to condemn tax evasion by multinationals.” Philon added that Apple accused Attac of “vandalism,” but insisted that their actions had been “peaceful,” “symbolic” and resulted in no permanent damage to property.

Previous protests staged by Attac supports include a demonstration on the iPhone X launch day, in which protesters dumped loads of apples from the roof of an Apple Store location while demonstrators carried signs saying “Apple, pay your taxes” in Aix-en-Provence, France.

In August 2016, the European Commission concluded that Apple had been negotiating favorable tax arrangements with the Irish government — ones that resulted in about $14.5 billion in back taxes owed.

The aforementioned “Paradise Papers” suggested that Apple allegedly transferred the bulk of its untaxed funds to the island of Jersey, which is largely exempt from European Union tax regulations and doesn’t typically tax corporate income.

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