27.11.2020 Europe

Macron adds voice to anger over police beating of black man

By Paul Myers - RFI
AP - Thibault Camus
LISTEN NOV 27, 2020
AP - Thibault Camus

French President Emmanuel Macron has condemned the violent police beating of a black music producer in Paris, saying he was "very shocked" by the images circulated online. The president demanded a tough punishment for the officers, who have been suspended pending an investigation. 

Macron was "beyond shocked", "furious" and "flew into a rage" when he saw footage of the beating, French media reported citing presidential officials.

The video of officers hitting and racially abusing Michel Zecler for several minutes as he tried to enter his music studio on Saturday evening in Paris is the latest in a series of images of police violence published in recent days.

The president's condemnation comes as pressure mounts on the government, with top politicians and sports personalities expressing outrage over the incident.

Football World Cup winners Kylian Mbappé and Antoine Griezmann hit out at the pictures.

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

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin told French television that the officers had soiled the uniform of the republic and that he would press for their dismissal.

Police sources said four male officers had been suspended. They have been summoned for questioning by the IGPN internal police watchdog, which has launched an investigation into use of violence and making a false statement.

The officers said they had initially detained Zecler for causing violence, a charge since dismissed by prosecutors.

The incident raises questions over the future of the Paris police chief Didier Lallement, who is also under pressure after the violent clearance of a migrant camp in Paris earlier in the week.

Security law

These latest incidents of alleged police brutality come as the government is trying to push through new security laws that would restrict the right of the media and the public to publish images of police officers on the job.

Media unions say it could give police a green light to prevent journalists from doing their work and potentially documenting abuses, as well as stopping social media users from posting incriminating footage.

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

Macron swept to power in 2017 as a centrist who rallied support from across the political spectrum. But with the new security law, critics and even some supporters accuse him of veering 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 newspaper.

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