France: Policemen detained after they beat black man

WION Web Team
New Delhi Published: Nov 28, 2020, 01:07 AM(IST)

France President Emmanuel Macron Photograph:( AFP )

Story highlights

French President Emmanuel Macron said that the video of the incident "shames us" and called on the police to set high standards

Four policemen were detained by French authorities on Friday after they were suspected of beating and racially abusing a black music producer in Paris. French President Emmanuel Macron said that the video of the incident "shames us" and called on the police to set high standards.

Video carried by the Loopsider website shows how music producer Michel Zecler was repeatedly beaten by officers for several minutes and subjected to racial abuse as he tried to enter his music studio Saturday evening.

Celebrities including football World Cup winners Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann condemned the beating, while French star singer Aya Nakamura said she wished the producer strength, adding "thank you to those who filmed".

A presidential official said Friday that Macron, too, was "very shocked" by the images which have sparked fresh accusations of systemic racism in the French police force.

'Hit him so hard'

"They called me 'dirty nigger' several times to my face while they punched me," Zecler told reporters outside police headquarters where he lodged a formal complaint.

In one of the videos on Loopsider a neighbour who filmed the scene from above said a plainclothes policeman punched a kneeling Zecler in the face "maybe seven times".

The policeman "hit him so hard that his hand hurt", the witness said.

The incident has raised questions over the future of Paris police chief Didier Lallement, already in the spotlight after the controversial forced removal of a migrant camp in Paris earlier in the week.

It also put the government on the backfoot as it tries to push through new security legislation that would restrict the right of the media to publish the faces of police officers.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, who is in charge of the police forces, told French television that the officers had tarnished the reputation of France's security forces.

'Racist motive'

The four officers, all men, were detained for questioning on Friday, a source close to the case told AFP.

The officers, who had already been suspended from duty, were being held at the National Police Inspectorate General (IGPN), and prosecutors opened an investigation into violence by a person in authority and false testimony, the source said.

Three of the four were being questioned on suspicion of "violence with a racist motive" committed intentionally in a group, prosecutors said. The fourth is being questioned on suspicion of using violence but is not accused of racism.

Zecler was initially himself detained for causing violence, but prosecutors threw out that probe and began investigating the officers instead.

"Nausea," said the front page headline in the leftist Liberation daily over a close-up picture of Zecler's swollen and bloodied face.

"The new video of a rare ferocity... adds to a problem fed over the last months by a succession of blunders and a tendency to revert to authoritarian tendencies," it said.

'Unbearable'

The death in US police custody of George Floyd in May and the Black Lives Matter movement have reverberated in France where allegations of brutality against police officers are commonplace, particularly in poor and ethnically diverse urban areas.

"The French police has a structural problem with violence committed against visible minorities," Fabien Jobard, a sociologist, told AFP.

"Unbearable video, unacceptable violence," Mbappe wrote on Twitter next to a picture of the injured producer. "Say no to racism."

The outcry comes after the lower house of parliament on Tuesday evening approved a security bill which would restrict the publication of photos or videos of police officers' faces.

Media unions say it could give police a green light to prevent journalists -- and social media users -- from  documenting abuses.

A protest against the draft law, which has yet to pass a Senate vote, has been called for Saturday in Paris.

In a sign that the government could be preparing to backtrack, Prime Minister Jean Castex announced that he would appoint a commission to redraft Article 24 of the law that would restrict the publication of images of the police. 

Macron swept to power in 2017 as a centrist who rallied support from across the political spectrum. But critics and even some supporters accuse him of tilting to the right as he seeks re-election in 2022.

"Already accused of attacking public freedoms through the security bill... the executive faces an accumulation of cases of violence and police abuse, the images of which have disturbed even the ruling party," said Le Monde daily.

(With AFP inputs)

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