France gives you the right to gather at a place, for or against anything, as long as it is peaceful. It can be both social or political gathering :
A social gathering is when a few of you want to meet for a pot luck lunch at a public place.
And a political gathering is when people are meeting to protest against or show support to something.
How to do
The first thing you need to know is how many of you will be there. If you are less than 30 and an informal meet, it’s pretty straight forward, and do not need any authorization.
However, the moment it becomes a bigger gathering, it is important to get required authorizations.
This is the first thing you will need, to find a friend who can draft you letters in French.
The police authorization
This is the basic authorization that every gathering needs. Organizing a gathering without a police authorization means you are on the wrong side.
A local address
It is easier to get an authorization when gatherings are local. Means, if you want to organize a gathering in Paris, it is easier if you appeal for the authorization through someone who is having an address in Paris.
Associations can ask for a permission of gathering
All association can ask for a permission for a gathering. Three person responsible for the event will sign while asking for the permission.
Think about insurance. If your association is not insured for organizing such a gathering, get an insurance done. Because, otherwise if something wrong happens during whatever is being organized, those signing on the application will be held responsible for whatever damage done during the event.
Send them an application
Once your plan is ready, you have to send an application to this address if you are in Paris. In case you are in a different city, call your prefecture to get email address of the division of prefecture who are dealing with this in your city. In a few days’ time, you will get a telephone from them, asking you to meet for an interview.
You will meet police officers whom you will explain your project. You will fill up a form and sign. Normally, authorizations are given, or in case there is a problem with the date or place, an alternative date or place will be proposed.
Static gathering is easier than a march
Because the French police needs to mobilize more man power, it is easier to get authorization for a static gathering, compared to a march.
Where you are planning to organize your gathering?
If you are organizing your gathering in a public place like the place de Trocadero, a police authorization is enough.
However, there are cases where you will need additional authorization. For example:
You are doing your event at the bank of a River: You will need authorization from the authority who is in charge of managing the river banks. In case it is in Paris, a large part is managed by Le port Autonome de Paris an and you can send an email to ask them the details.
You are doing your event at a garden: You have to check with the organization, who can be the local Marie, but not necessarily, who is managing the park.
Do you want to sell drinks / alcohols / food / play music / install tents?
In case you want to sell drinks, alcohols, food or play music or install tents, you will need special authorisations for each of them. You can do it in the name of your association, but ask the prefecture where to get these authorisations, in case you intend to do the same. You have to write all these points when you send your first letter to the police asking for their permission. You have to give them a clear view on exactly what you are going to do.
The police will guide you
In general, when you will contact the police prefecture, they will guide you by telling you whom you have to contact for future authorizations, if required.
Once you have the authorizations in hand, you are ready to go, for your first public event. All the best.
Sourav Choudhury is a social entrepreneur working for the cause of Indian community living in France, since 2003. He is founder of multiple projects: the largest social network of the Indian community of France, a French language school for english speaking expatriates, this website, and several other projects.