French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday condemned a viral video of the violent arrest of a black music producer in Paris as shameful and unacceptable.
Four police officers have been suspended over the video which was first shared on social media by French news website Loopsider. It shows officers repeatedly beating a man during a police operation last Saturday.
“The images that we have all seen of Michel Zecler’s assault are unacceptable. They shame us,” Macron wrote on Twitter on Friday evening.
Les images que nous avons tous vues de l’agression de Michel Zecler sont inacceptables. Elles nous font honte. La France ne doit jamais se résoudre à la violence ou la brutalité, d’où qu’elles viennent. La France ne doit jamais laisser prospérer la haine ou le racisme.
— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) November 27, 2020
“France must never resolve to violence or brutality, wherever it comes from. France must never allow hatred or racism to flourish.
“I believe in an exemplary Republic: an exemplary police force with the French, exemplary French people with the police as will all representatives of public authority,” he added.
He announced that he has asked the government to work on proposals to restore “trust” between the French people and “those who protect them” and to more efficiently tackle discrimination.
“We need to know how to look at the realities of our country in the face and lead with determination, calm and respect the debates of our society. Neither invective nor stigma, nor manipulation can contribute to this,” he said.
French President Emmanuel Macron said he was “very shocked” by the video and held a meeting with Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin on Thursday. The minister later ordered the officers involved in the case to be suspended from duty.
The police’s police to investigate
The Inspectorate General of the National Police (IGPN) — the police’s police — has been asked to investigate the incident, Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin had revealed on Thursday.
The Paris police prefecture said in a statement that IGPN will also seek to establish the exact circumstances surrounding the man’s arrest.
The images drew wide condemnation on social media from politicians and high-profile sports personalities.
The incident comes just days after French authorities were criticised for forcefully evacuating tents from a migrant protest in a Paris square.
On Tuesday, French lawmakers also approved a controversial “global security” law that would make it an offence to film and identify police officers online if there is intent to harm.
Human rights groups and media organisations say the law would allow police violence to go unaccounted for, but police unions and members of President Emmanuel Macron’s government say the bill is necessary to protect police officers from threats and harassment.
Prime Minister Jean Castex intends to refer the matter to the Constitutional Council himself, saying on Thursday that the proposed legislation will be examined.
What do the videos of the incident show?
The images show police officers attempting to detain a Black man, identified only by his first name Michel, in the entrance to the Black Gold Studios building in the 17th arrondissement of Paris.
Three police officers, one wearing civilian clothing, can be seen following the man into the studio and then beating him with their fists, feet, and a truncheon.
Michel tries to protect his body and face.
Later in the video, a number of individuals who had been in the studio building can be seen forcing the police outside and shutting the front door.
Officers then try and force entry once again and smash a window to throw a tear gas canister inside the building, before those inside make their way onto the street.
Photographs of the incident show Michel after the incident with bruises and stitches on his head and face.
The altercation was recorded on security camera surveillance video inside the studio and other videos on the street that were taken by neighbours.
Following the incident, the music producer was reportedly taken into police custody as part of an investigation for “violence against a person holding public authority” and “rebellion”.
According to the AFP news agency, the officers were arresting Michel for failing to wear a mask and say he “forcibly” dragged them into the building.
In their report, the police also wrote that the man had beaten them, according to the AFP, but videos do not appear to show Michel striking the officers. Euronews is working on verifying this information.
On Tuesday, the Paris prosecutor’s office opened a new investigation for “violence by persons holding public authority” and “forgery in public writing”.
The music producer and his lawyer filed a complaint with the IGPN at their Paris headquarters, stating that several racial slurs were uttered by the officers during the arrest.
The news report on Loopsider has received more than nine million views by Thursday evening.
‘Unbearable’ and ‘intolerable’
Soon after videos of the arrest were shared on social media, Gerald Darmanin asked Paris police prefect Didier Lallement to suspend the police officers concerned.
A fourth suspect who arrived as reinforcement and allegedly threw the tear gas canister was also suspended, according to AFP.
Speaking on Thursday, the Interior Minister said he would ask for the “dismissal” of the officers “as soon as the facts are established by justice”, accusing them of having “soiled the uniform of the Republic”.
Prominent French footballers Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe have also denounced the video of the arrest as “unbearable”, with Griezmann tweeting “My France hurts”.
Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo also posted on social media that she was “deeply shocked by this intolerable act”.
“All the consequences must be drawn from these exceptionally serious facts, the rule of law is non-negotiable,” she added.
France’s former Interior Minister Christophe Castaner has also called for “zero tolerance against racism and against this violence”.
Demonstrations had been planned in France on Saturday for the withdrawal of the controversial law against filming police, Article 24.
The police prefecture in Paris has requested for protests to follow recommended routes through the city under COVID-19 gathering regulations.
The Paris prosecutor’s office has also opened two investigations into alleged acts of “violence” by police officers against a migrant and a journalist in Paris earlier this week.