The Black Lives Matter movement may have started in the U.S., but anyone who thinks police brutality and systemic racism in policing are uniquely American phenomena need only look to France to dispel that notion. On Monday, four Paris police officers were charged with beating a Black music producer on Nov. 21.
From the Washington Post:
Michel Zecler, the 41-year-old music producer, claims that the officers repeatedly insulted him as they beat him and that they also used a clear racial epithet while they did so. The officers denied that charge during their interrogation, Paris prosecutor Rémy Heitz told reporters Sunday.
The footage of Zecler, first released Thursday by the French news outlet Loopsider, stunned a nation that was already debating a controversial provision in a new security law that would ban recording police on active duty. The release of the footage followed an earlier incident Thursday in which a Paris police officer was shown on camera beating Afghan refugees as authorities cleared out a migrant camp in central Paris.
— Shazia Hemmens (@ShaziaHussain) November 28, 2020
Worried yet, citizens?
“Michel Zecler, a black music producer, cowered in the entrance of the building that houses his recording studio in..Paris he was beaten by 3 policemen who allegedly called him a “dirty n****”. His crime? He was not wearing a mask”https://t.co/9cX1fxB6mi pic.twitter.com/rlwcaVnR0G
— Maajid أبو عمّار (@MaajidNawaz) November 29, 2020
“I want to understand why I have been assaulted by people who were wearing a police uniform,” Zecler told the Associated Press. “I want justice, actually, because I believe in the justice of my country.”
Zecler also said he “was lucky enough to have videos that protect me.”
According to Newsweek, that video has been viewed some 14 million times since it was posted to social media. Newsweek also reports that the altercation between Zecler and the officers began over a dispute over whether Zecler was wearing a face covering, though it’s still unclear how such a dispute would have escalated into violence.
According to the Post, three of the four officers involved in the incident have been charged with intentional violence by a person in public authority, as well as falsifying statements. The fourth officer is only charged with intentional violence. Two of the officers are currently in custody while the other two are out on bail. The names of the involved officers haven’t been reported.
French President Emmanuel Macron said in a Facebook post Friday that the video footage “shamed us” and requested that lawmakers take measures to “reaffirm the link of confidence that should naturally exist between the French and those who protect them.”
But that request isn’t likely to impress anti-police brutality activists considering the fact that under Macron, the French government is “pushing a new security bill that makes it illegal to publish images of police officers with intent to cause them harm, amid other measures,” AP reports.
*Double checks notes to make sure we aren’t actually talking about America here*
The good news is that protests against the proposed legislation might actually be making a difference.
More from the Post:
Amid mounting criticism from the public in the wake of these incidents, the French government appeared willing to change the controversial provision that would ban filming police, in theory to protect them from harm.
Prime Minister Jean Castex said Friday that the provision, still pending approval from the French Senate, would be revised.