Paris prosecutor speaks on brutal police beating of Black man



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Four police officers detained after a video appeared to show them beating and racially abusing a music producer in Paris were brought before a judge on Sunday, according to sources close to the investigation. Watch FRANCE 24’s coverage of Paris prosecutor Rémy Heitz’s update on the next stage of the judicial process at 5 pm French time (GMT+1).

The officers faced the judge around noon, just a day after mass protests throughout France opposing police violence and the government’s new legislation restricting sharing images of officers.

On Friday, President Emmanuel Macron said the images of the beating of music producer Michel Zecler by police officers in Paris last weekend “shame us”.

Click on the video player above to watch FRANCE 24’s live coverage.

 

 

 

 

 



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‘Structural’ issues behind the brutality



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A video of a music producer being beaten up by three policemen in Paris has revived the debate about police brutality in France. While the unions say such incidents should be treated as isolated one-offs, others, such as researcher Jacques de Maillard, point to structural problems within the institution. 

“Unacceptable ” images that “shame us”: On his Facebook page, French President Emmanuel Macron did not mince his words in a November 27 posting denouncing the behaviour of the police officers who beat up and racially insulted Michel Zecler, a 42-year-old Black music producer, in his studio in Paris’s 17th arrondissement (district). Filmed by a CCTV camera and then broadcast by the Loopsider website, the “15 minutes of racist beatings and insults” sparked a national outcry and forced the government to act. The police officers have since been suspended and are now under investigation by the police disciplinary body.

The assault on Zecler comes amid heightened tensions over police violence. On November 23, police hit demonstrators, dispersed tear gas and chased people out of tents and into the street while violently clearing a makeshift camp of mostly Afghan migrants in the Place de la République. The following day, Parliament voted to move forward with a new security bill that critics worry could make it illegal for journalists or bystanders to film instances of police misconduct.

In an attempt to understand the structural roots of such police abuses, FRANCE 24 spoke to Jacques de Maillard, a researcher specialising in police issues and the director of CESDIP (Centre for Sociological Research on Law and Penal Institutions).

FRANCE 24: This extremely shocking attack comes at a time when the government is trying to ban the broadcasting of videos of on-duty police officers with the proposed new security law. How do you interpret the timing of these events?  

Jacques de Maillard: There’s a really tragic irony to it. This outbreak of violence, which is neither legitimate nor proportionate, shows once again how essential transparency is when it comes to the police. All the more so since the video here allows us to challenge the police officers’ false report. This case is particularly shocking and rightly provoked a very strong emotional reaction but it is not an isolated incident. Several videos have been released in 2020 that illustrate these kinds of cases, including that of Cédric Chouviat, the delivery man who died during a police stop in January; the racist remarks of the Seine-Saint-Denis police officers in April; or the excessive violence displayed during the evacuation of the migrant camp on Place de la République on November 23. Beyond the emotional factors and the irony of the situation, the recurrence of events like these highlights a structural problem that cannot be reduced, as the police often say, to isolated acts by individuals who must be punished.

Are these violent and racist outbursts related to a problem of recruitment within the police force, or to the supervision of officers in the field? 

First of all, let us remember that most police interventions take place without major problems. However, there are structural problems in terms of recruitment, training, philosophy and management. Our studies show that many people choose to join the police for noble reasons: the protection of citizens and a taste for action. The institution promotes this heroic version of the job, but the reality is far removed from the myth. Officers in the field sometimes feel as if they’re trying to empty the sea with a spoon, without support from their commanders and under constant criticism from the outside world. The work is exhausting, frustrating and breeds resentment. This spiral leads some police officers to want to take justice into their own hands, a pattern we see frequently. 

Problems were also identified during recruitment sessions, particularly with panels that focused on whether the recruit would be a good colleague, while questions of know-how and interpersonal skills, which are absolutely crucial to the job, were relegated to the background.  

Finally, the problems are exacerbated in the Paris region due to the demographics. Most police officers come from the provinces and want to return there. At the beginning of their careers, they find themselves working in complex neighbourhoods that they don’t know, and where they don’t necessarily want to be. This situation generates high staff turnover and a shortage of personnel, particularly among local supervisors such as brigadiers, reinforcing the feeling of disorientation and abandonment among young recruits. 

The question of racism is also an issue: police officers are not all racist, of course, but their working conditions can lead them to adopt negative stereotypes about minority populations, which result in discriminatory practices.  

Although the institution is extremely hierarchical, police officers perform many actions and activities on a daily basis without any oversight from their superiors. This leeway can be very positive, but it can also lead to serious abuses.

Is the interior minister partly responsible for this situation? 

The minister plays a complicated balancing role. He or she must both support the police and insist that they respect the rights of the people. These two requirements can become contradictory, as in the case of Gérald Darmanin, whose unqualified support for the police is now coming back at him like a boomerang. After having said in July that he “choked” when he heard the word “police violence”, how can he manage these types of scandals today? Especially since his words, like the government’s stance, can have an effect on police conduct. By minimising their responsibility, he is aggravating the problem because he conveys a negative image of the relationship between the police and the people. Darmanin had to come to terms with the police because his predecessor had been heavily criticised by the unions. However, this short-term political strategy will not solve the underlying problems of the tension between the police and the people. Today, the challenge is one of reorganisation; the system needs to be completely reassessed, beginning with practices on the ground and prioritising good relations with the public and the proportionate use of force. The police institution needs to do something about the cynicism that is spreading among the police and that sometimes leads to tragedies.

This piece has been translated from the original in French.



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Macron dënon keqtrajtimin nga policia të një producenti muzike me ngjyrë


Presidenti Emmanuel Macron tha të premten se pamjet që tregojnë policinë e Parisit duke rrahur një producent muzike me ngjyrë ishin të turpshme për Francën dhe se qeveria do të duhej të gjente një mënyrë për të rikthyer besimin e publikut tek policia.

Prokurorët po hetojnë arrestimin e dhunshëm të Michel Zecler, i cili tha se ai gjithashtu u abuzua për shkak të racës nga oficerët, pasi dolën pamjet e kamerave të sigurisë të incidentit. Edhe organi që mbikqyr policinë po bën hetime.

Katër oficerë policie po mbaheshin për t’u marrë në pyetje si pjesë e hetimit, tha zyra e prokurorit të Parisit.

Rrahja brenda hyrjes së një ndërtese u kap nga kamerat e sigurisë dhe telefona celularë dhe pamjet kanë qarkulluar gjerësisht në internet dhe kanë okupuar mediat në të tërë Evropën.

“Pamjet që kemi parë të gjithë të agresionit kundër Michel Zecler janë të papranueshme. Ato janë të turpshme për të gjithë ne. Franca s’ duhet të lejojë kurrë dhunë ose brutalitet, pa marrë parasysh se nga kush vjen. Franca kurrë s’ duhet të lejojë urrejtjen ose racizmin të zhvillohet”, tha zoti Macron në një deklaratë në faqen e tij në Facebook.

‘Respekto ligjin’

Ai shtoi se forca policore duhet të udhëheqë me shembullin e saj.

“Ata që kanë për detyrë të zbatojnë ligjin duhet të respektojnë ligjin,” tha ai, duke shtuar se ai i kërkoi qeverisë të bëjë urgjentisht propozime rreth mënyrës së kthimit të besimit tek policia.

Rrahja e Zeclerit rrezikon të ndezë tensionin racor, me akuzat për brutalitet të përsëritur të policisë kundër njerëzve me ngjyrë dhe bashkësive etnike që është në mendjen e shumë njerëzve pas vdekjes së afrikano-amerikanit George Floyd në Mineapolis në maj.

Dominique Sopo, presidenti i grupit anti-racizëm SOS Racisme, i tha Reuters se zoti Zecler kishte qenë objekt i një “sulmi racist”.

“Që oficerët e policisë të veprojnë në atë mënyrë, ata duhet të kenë një ndjesi të jashtëzakonshme mosndëshkimi. Kjo situatë është një simptomë e një mosndëshkimi që ka vazhduar për shumë kohë,” tha ai.

Policia e Parisit u përball me kritika këtë javë pasi fotot dhe videot e mediave sociale treguan oficerë që godisnin protestuesit ndërsa pastronin një kamping të migrantëve të paligjshëm në një shesh qendror të Parisit.

Incidenti në studio

Producenti u tha gazetarëve se u fut në kurth nga policia në studion e tij në Paris të shtunën.

Ai tha se kishte qenë duke ecur në rrugë pa maskë – gjë që është kundër protokolleve shëndetësore franceze për COVID-19 – dhe kur pa një makinë policie, hyri në studion e tij aty pranë për të mos gjobitur. Sidoqoftë, tha ai, policia e ndoqi brenda dhe filloi ta sulmonte dhe ta keqtrajtonte me tone racore.

Ministri i Brendshëm Gerald Darmanin i tha televizionit France 2 të enjten se oficerët do të ndëshkoheshin Me kusht që konfirmohet keqbërja nga ana e tyre.

Arrestimi i zotit Zecler erdhi mes një debati të ashpër në Francë mbi legjislacionin që do të kufizonte aftësinë e gazetarëve për të dokumentuar sjelljen e oficerëve të policisë franceze në detyrë.

Rreth 3,500 vetë marshuan kundër projektligjit në qytetin perëndimor të Nantës, ku policia përdori gaz lotsjellës dhe bëri disa arrestime. Shumë pjesëmarrës protestuan gjithashtu kundër dhunës së policisë, disa me fytyra me fashuara në mbështetje të zotit Zecler. Një demonstratë e ngjashme është planifikuar në Paris të shtunën.

Zemërimi i që pasoi vdekjan e Floyd-it në SHBA në maj ka bërë jehonë në Francë, veçanërisht në periferitë e varfra të qytetit ku policia shpesh përplaset me të rinj me prejardhje të pakicave etnike.

Protestat në Paris në qershor u përqendruan në rastet e pazgjidhura të personave që vdisnin gjatë operacioneve policore, të tilla si Adama Traore, i cili vdiq në paraburgim policor pranë Parisit në vitin 2016./VOA



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Anger at police beating galvanises French protests against security bill



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Dozens of rallies are planned on Saturday against a proposed French law that critics say will undermine the media’s ability to scrutinise police behaviour, with the country shaken by footage showing officers beating and racially abusing a black man.

French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday said images of police beating a Black music producer in Paris put “shame” on the country, with top politicians and sportsmen expressing outrage over the incident.

The case, coming on the heels of a violent evacuation of migrants in central Paris, has shocked the nation and galvanised opponents of the government’s controversial new security law.

One of the most disputed elements of the proposed law is Article 24, which would criminalise the publication of images of on-duty police officers with the intent of harming their “physical or psychological integrity”.

It was passed by the National Assembly last week — although it is awaiting Senate approval — provoking protests and drawing condemnation from media organisations across France.

>> French bill banning images of police worries activists and journalists

Rally organisers are calling for the article to be withdrawn, claiming that it contradicts “the fundamental public freedoms of our Republic”.

“This bill aims to undermine the freedom of the press, the freedom to inform and be informed, the freedom of expression,” one of Saturday’s protest organisers said.

Trade unions are expected to join the demonstrations, with members of the yellow vests — whose sometimes violent protests in 2018 and 2019 shook the country — also expected. 

Documenting abuses

In Paris, government officials had ordered that organisers limit the rally to a single location, but the order was quashed by judges who authorised a march.

And in a sign that the government could be preparing to backtrack, Prime Minister Jean Castex announced Friday that he would appoint a commission to redraft Article 24.

Under the article, offenders could be sentenced to up to a year in jail, and fined 45,000 euros ($53,000) for sharing images of police officers.

The government says the provision is intended to protect officers from doxxing and online abuse, but critics say it is further evidence of the Macron administration’s slide to the right.

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

They point to the case of music producer Michel Zecler, whose racial abuse and beating at the hands of police was recorded by CCTV and later published online, provoking widespread criticism of the officers’ actions.

In another instance, journalists on the ground at a French migrant camp witnessed and recorded police brutality on Monday as the Paris area was cleared.

‘Soiled the uniform of the Republic’

The incidents have increased pressure on Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin and raised questions over the future of Paris police chief Didier Lallement.

In an interview the France 2 television on Thursday, Darmanin said the officers involved in Zecler’s beating “had soiled the uniform of the Republic”.

Macron has held talks with Darmanin to call for tough punishments for those involved in the beating, a government source said.

>> Policing without consent: Why French police are ill-equipped to ‘reconquer’ Paris suburbs

Protests over police brutality have already taken place elsewhere in the country ahead of Saturday.

Demonstrators took to the streets of Toulouse on Friday evening brandishing placards with slogans like “police everywhere, justice nowhere”. In Nantes, police said around 3,500 rallied, while organisers put the crowd at 6,000-7,000. 

The condemnation has spread on social media sites following Zecler’s beating, with top footballers such as Kylian Mbappé joining his French national teammates and other athletes in calling for an end to racism.

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

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)



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More shops open as France starts easing virus lockdown measures



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France and other parts of Europe reopen “non-essential” stores on Saturday in time for the holiday season after progress in containing the coronavirus pandemic.

Most countries hope to ease their virus rules for Christmas and New Year, allowing families a respite before bracing for what the world hopes is one last wave of restrictions until a clutch of promising new vaccines kick in.

Stores selling non-essential goods will lift their shutters in France on Saturday, though bars and restaurants will remain shut until early next year.

Health officials said the number of daily new infections fell to 12,459 on Friday, compared to 22,882 a week before. The cumulative reported total now stands at over 2.19 million.

The number of people receiving hospital treatment for Covid-19 also dropped, continuing a downtrend of the past two weeks.

President Emmanuel Macron said earlier this week that the nationwide virus lockdown in place since Oct. 30 could be lifted on Dec. 15 if by then the number of new infections per day fell to 5,000.

Poland’s shopping centres were also set to reopen on Saturday, while Belgium will allow shops to reopen from December 1 but keep the current semi-lockdown in place possibly until mid-January. 

The move mirrors similar easing in Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

The Italian government partially lifted restrictions in Lombardy and Piedmont in the north, and Calabria in the south from Sunday, changing their alert levels from red to orange.

And Ireland has also announced a staggered easing of restrictions to allow some businesses to reopen and for families to gather ahead of Christmas.

Although the virus spread is slowing thanks to weeks of tough restrictions, Europe remains at the heart of the pandemic, recording more cases than the United States in the past week.

Until recently, Germany’s relative success in containing the virus had offered some sense of hope, with authorities putting in place some precautions that still allowed life to carry on almost as normal.

However, its measured approach has failed during the second wave, endangering the health of Europe’s biggest economy and weighing on the mood as the northern hemisphere heads into the winter holidays.

Germany’s Robert Koch Institute recorded more than 22,000 new daily cases on Friday, pushing the overall total beyond the one-million mark.

More worryingly, the number of Covid-19 patients in intensive care has soared from around 360 in early October to more than 3,500 last week.       

Lockdown fatigue                  

Globally, more than 1.4 million deaths and 61 million infections have been officially recorded, although the real numbers are unknown since testing and reporting methods vary greatly.

With the virus on the march and the rollout of the first vaccines not expected until next month, much of the world faces a gloomy winter under more lockdowns, with an accompanying increase in economic anxiety and mental strain.

Lockdown fatigue is spreading even as governments unfurl new measures to save healthcare systems from collapse.

One hairdresser in northern England has become a cause celebre among social media libertarians after stacking up fines totalling £17,000 ($23,000), invoking the Magna Carta of 1215.

Among others invoking Magna Carta to stay open have been a tattoo parlour in Bristol, western England, and a children’s soft-play centre in Liverpool, in the northwest.

Law enforcers have taken a dim view, meting out fines and reminding all businesses that legislation of this year, not 800 years ago, is relevant and binding.

Nations are now trying to gauge how people, exhausted by one of the most traumatic years in generations, can enjoy a small holiday break without making things worse.

Playing it safe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called for all EU resorts to be closed until January 10, making Switzerland — which is outside the bloc and is staying open — the go-to destination for ski fans.

The French government has said winter sport resorts are free to open for the Christmas holiday season but ski lifts will have to remain shut, prompting bafflement from players in the sector.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)



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Macron ‘very shocked’ by police brutality images as pressure on govt mounts


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French President Emmanuel Macron is “very shocked” by the images of police beating a Black music producer in Paris, a presidential official said on Friday, as pressure on the government mounted with top politicians and sportsmen expressing outrage over the incident.

A day after the publication of images of a brutal police beating of a Black man sparked condemnations across France, a presidential official said Macron was “very shocked” by the images.

The footage of police beating music producer, Michel Zecler in the 17th arrondissement (district) of the French capital over the weekend was the latest in a series of images of police violence published in recent days. It comes as the government is trying to push through controversial new security legislation that would restrict the right of the media to publish the faces of police agents.

Four police officers were detained for questioning on Friday over the beating of Zecler, AFP reported, citing a source close to the case.

The officers, who were suspended from duty on Thursday, were being held at the National Police Inspectorate General (IGPN), which is investigating charges of violence by a person in authority and false testimony.

‘Toxic climate’: Outcry grows in France after police filmed beating music producer


Pressure on interior minister, Paris police chief

In the wake of the latest police brutality scandal, French Prime Minister Jean Castex said he would set up “an independent commission with responsibility for proposing a new wording for Article 24″.

Article 24 of the “Comprehensive Security” bill, passed during a first reading by the lower house of parliament on Tuesday, would criminalise the publication of images of on-duty police officers with the intent of harming their “physical or psychological integrity”.

Media and human rights groups have raised alarm about the possible impact on journalists covering police operations, warning that the wording is intended to dissuade citizens from videoing police and holding them accountable.

It has also increased pressure on Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin and raised questions over the future of Paris police chief Didier Lallement, who was already in the spotlight after the forced removal of a migrant camp in Paris earlier in the week that has been widely condemned.

In an interview the France 2 television, Darmanin said the officers involved in Zecler’s beating “had soiled the uniform of the republic”.

‘Nausea’

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

Macron on Thursday held talks with Darmanin to call for tough punishments for those involved in the beating, a government source added.

“Nausea,” said the front page headline in the leftist Libération daily newspaper 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.

Saturday protest against security law 

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 latest police brutality video sparked condemnation on social media sites, with top footballers such as Kylian Mbappé joining his French national teammates and other athletes in calling for an end to racism.

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

 

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

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)



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Three French police officers suspended over beating of Black man in Paris studio



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French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin on Thursday ordered the suspension of three police officers involved in a brutal beating of a music producer in a Paris studio over the weekend. Footage of the incident, showing police officers repeatedly punching the Black man using truncheons, was posted by a news site earlier Thursday sparking widespread condemnation.

The video clip, published by French news website Loopsider, shows the violent arrest of a music producer identified only by his first name, Michel, in the 17th arrondissement (district) of the French capital on Saturday.

Based on the written record of the police officers’ declarations, Michel drew their attention because he was not wearing a mask, according to French media reports. Face masks are mandatory in Paris outdoors amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The incident came as President Emmanuel Macron’s government is pushing a new bill that restricts the ability to film and post videos of police, which has prompted protests from civil rights groups and journalists concerned that it would allow police brutality to go undiscovered and unpunished.

It came days after France launched an investigation into a violent police dismantling of migrant tents on an iconic Paris square earlier this week.  

In a Twitter message posted hours after Loopsider published the video, Darmanin said he asked the Paris police prefect to suspend the police officers concerned as a precautionary measure. “I hope the disciplinary proceedings can be conducted as soon as possible,” said Darmanin.

Gruesome beating, tear gas, racial slur allegations

Footage from a security camera inside the music studio as well as video filmed by neighbours outside show three officers following Michel from the street into his studio, where they can be seen punching him and beating him with a truncheon.

The police officers repeatedly used racial slurs during the beating, Michel told the press shortly after he filed a complaint with the Parisian headquarters of the General Inspectorate of the National Police (IGPN). “People who must protect me are attacking me … I did nothing to deserve this,” he said in the presence of his lawyer. “I just want these three people to be punished by the law.”

In their report, the police officers wrote that the man had hit them. But footage of the incident showed no sign of the victim resisting arrest.

In the second part of one video, people who were in the basement of the studio manage to reach the entrance, causing the police to withdraw outside and the studio door to close.

The policemen then try to force the door open and throw a tear gas canister inside the studio, causing the room to smoke.

Following the incident, the victim was initially placed in police custody as part of an investigation by the Paris public prosecutor’s office for “violence against a person holding public authority” and “rebellion”.

But the prosecutor’s office closed this investigation and opened a new procedure on Tuesday for “violence by persons holding public authority” and “forgery in public writing”, which was entrusted to the IGPN.

‘I believe in the justice of my country’

Hours after publication on Loopsider, the video went viral on social media sites with several prominent Frenchmen and women, including footballer Antoine Griezmann, condemning the police brutality.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Michel said he felt assured “now that the truth is out”, adding, “I want to understand why I have been assaulted by people who were wearing a police uniform. I want justice actually, because I believe in the justice of my country,” he said.

His lawyer, Hafida El Ali, said: “He asked them what they wanted, if they wanted to check his identity. (…) They didn’t stop beating him, the video of the violence (inside the studio) lasts for 12 minutes.”

El Ali said that nine others who were recording music in the studio basement were also beaten.

“Outside they are still beaten up and thrown to the ground and that’s the moment when a police officer sees they are being filmed,” she said. 

“These videos are essential because initially my client was being detained … for violence against people with public authority,” El Ali said. “This is very serious. The reality is that if we didn’t have these videos maybe my client would be in prison.”

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and AP)





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Notre-Dame Cathedral rebuild hits milestone as melted scaffolding cleared


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Reconstruction of Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris reached a turning point this week. The removal of the final portions of the scaffolding that melted into a twisted web during last year’s blaze led French Culture Minister Roselyne Bachelot to declare the once-imperiled landmark “saved”, and crucial protective and stabilisation work can now proceed.

Delicate work to rebuild Notre-Dame Cathedral began in June to clear away the 200 tonnes of tangled tubes that surrounded the cathedral’s spire when it collapsed as millions watched in horror on the banks of the Seine river and around the world on April 15, 2019.

The spire and other parts of the roof were undergoing renovation work when the fire erupted, threatening to destroy the 13th-century gothic landmark.