Monday 30th November 2020
After the brutal operation against a black music producer in Paris, four police officers were accused by the judiciary. Official investigations into “willful violence” and “false testimony” were initiated against the officers. President Emmanuel Macron called an emergency meeting on possible consequences.
Macron called the attack a “disgrace” and called on the government to make “swift proposals to restore the confidence” that should exist between the police and citizens. The head of state discussed this with Prime Minister Jean Castex and other leading representatives from government and parliament.
The government majority in the National Assembly is also reacting to the mass protests in Paris against a new police law. The parliamentary group leader of the ruling party La République en Marche (The Republic on the Move, LREM), Christophe Castaner, announced that the controversial article would be “completely revised”. He did not comment on the content of the planned changes.
Two of the police are in custody
The music producer Michel Zecler was beaten and kicked by police about a week ago, as shown by a surveillance camera that caused horror across the country. He claims that they also racially insulted him. Three of them are under investigation for physical violence. A fourth is accused of throwing a tear gas grenade into the producer’s studio. Two of the police officers are in custody and the other two have been released subject to conditions.
The allegation of “false testimony” relates to the minutes that the police made after the incident. They stated that the producer did not wear a corona protective mask on the street and then attacked. However, the video images only show how the police hit the producer in the face, kick him and beat him with the baton. The music producer Zecler claims that the police attacked him for no reason. “They said ‘dirty negro’ several times and beat me up,” he said.
Police law makes filming difficult
The case had caused horror across France. After soccer stars like Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappé, President Macron was also appalled by the video images. On Saturday, numerous people in Paris and other cities took to the streets against police violence. The police counted around 130,000 demonstrators, the organizers even spoke of 500,000.
The controversial law for “global security” is up for discussion, which could make it very difficult for journalists to film violent police operations. Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin wants to protect the police from personal attacks. Most recently, the former President François Hollande of the Socialist Party and other representatives from the Left and Green camp demanded that the draft, which the National Assembly had already passed in first reading, be withdrawn.
Attack on Freedom of the Press?
Article 24 of the planned law is particularly controversial and is to be completely revised after the decision of the National Assembly. He criminalized the distribution of films or photos of police officers if they threaten the “physical or physical integrity” of the officers. Police officers have been complaining about personal attacks in online networks, especially since clashes with the “yellow vests”.
Journalists’ associations see in the vaguely worded article a “film ban”. They argue that no one will shoot videos of police operations again if the publication, as intended, can be punished with one year in prison and a fine of 45,000 euros.