UPDATE: French government under increasing pressure over video of French police beating music producer

UPDATE: French government under increasing pressure over video of French police beating music producer
Interior minister Gérald Darmanin, left, with president Emmanuel Macron. Photo: AFP
French President Emmanuel Macron is "very shocked" by the images of a black music producer being beaten by police in Paris, a presidential official said on Friday, as pressure grows over the incident.

Macron Thursday held talks with Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin to call for tough punishments for those involved in the beating of Michel Zecler last weekend, a government source added.

Sources also told AFP on Friday that four officers, who were suspended from duty over the incident, were detained for questioning on Friday.

READ ALSO French police caught on camera beating music producer

 

A presidential official said on Friday that President Macron was “very shocked” by the images.

The incident raised questions over the future of Paris police chief Didier Lallement, already in the spotlight after the forced removal of a migrant camp in Paris earlier in the week which has been widely condemned.

It also put the government on the backfoot as it tries to push through controversial new security legislation that would restrict the right of the media to publish the faces of police agents.

READ ALSO EXPLAINED The new French law that could restrict publication of images of police

 

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Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, who is in charge of the police forces, 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 officers had been suspended.

The four, all men, have been summoned for questioning at France's National Police Inspectorate General (IGPN) which has launched an investigation into use of violence and making a false statement, a source close to the investigation said.

Zecler was initially himself 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.

'Sickening', said the front page headline in the leftist Libération daily 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.

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.

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

The outcry comes after the lower house of parliament on Tuesday evening approved a security bill which would restrict the publication of photos or videos of police officers' faces.

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.

In a sign that the government was possibly preparing to backtrack, Prime Minister Jean Castex announced late Thursday that he would appoint a commission to redraft Article 24 of the law that would restrict the publication of images of the police.

But this in turn sparked accusations that the prime minister was trying to bypass the legislature.

“It is not for the government to substitute the work of an external committee in the place of parliamentary prerogatives,” the speaker of the lower house Richard Ferrand told Castex in a phone call, his office said.

 


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