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Macron says police violence ‘shames us’ as officers are detained for beating music producer

French authorities on Friday detained four police officers suspected of beating and racially abusing a music producer in Paris in a case that President Emmanuel Macron said "shames us".

Macron says police violence 'shames us' as officers are detained for beating music producer
President Emmanuel Macron in November 2020: AFP

Video carried by the Loopsider website shows how music producer Michel Zecler was repeatedly beaten by officers for several minutes and subjected to racial abuse as he tried to enter his music studio last weekend.

Celebrities including football World Cup winners Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann condemned the beating, while French star singer Aya Nakamura said she wished the producer strength, adding “thank you to those who filmed”.

Macron on Friday called the incident an “unacceptable attack” and asked the French government to come up with proposals to “fight against discrimination”.

The president spoke of images “which shame us”, according to a statement released on social media.

“France must never allow hate or racism to spread,” Macron said.

A presidential official said earlier on Friday that Macron was “very shocked” by the images which have sparked fresh accusations of systemic racism in the French police force.

'Hit him so hard'

“They called me 'dirty nigger' several times to my face while they punched me,” Zecler told reporters outside police headquarters where he lodged a formal complaint.

In one of the videos on Loopsider a neighbour who filmed the scene from above said a plainclothes policeman punched a kneeling Zecler in the face “maybe seven times”.

The policeman “hit him so hard that his hand hurt”, the witness said.

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

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

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, who is in charge of the police forces, told French television that the officers had tarnished the reputation of France's security forces.

'Racist motive'

The four officers, all men, were detained for questioning on Friday, a source close to the case told AFP.

The officers, who had already been suspended from duty, were being held at the National Police Inspectorate General (IGPN), and prosecutors opened an investigation into violence by a person in authority and false testimony, the source said.

Three of the four were being questioned on suspicion of “violence with a racist motive” committed intentionally in a group, prosecutors said. The fourth is being questioned on suspicion of using violence but is not accused of racism.

Zecler, 41, was initially himself detained for causing violence, but prosecutors threw out that probe and began investigating the officers instead.

“Nausea,” said the front page headline in the leftist Liberation 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.

'Unbearable'

The death of George Floyd while in US police custody in May and the Black Lives Matter movement have reverberated in France where allegations against police officer brutality are commonplace, particularly in poor and ethnically diverse urban areas.

“The French police has a structural problem with violence committed against visible minorities,” Fabien Jobard, a sociologist, told AFP.

“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 — and social media users — from  documenting abuses.

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

In the southern city of Toulouse, protesters took to the streets on Friday evening brandishing placards with slogans like “police everywhere, justice nowhere”.

In western Nantes, police said around 3,500 demonstrated, while organisers put the crowd at  6,000-7,000.

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

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The new French law that restricts photos and videos of police officers

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POLICE

Two mountaineers killed and 9 injured in ice fall in Swiss mountains

A Frenchwoman and a Spaniard were killed and nine other mountaineers were injured on Friday in an ice fall in southwest Switzerland, police said following a rescue attempt involving several helicopters.

Two mountaineers killed and 9 injured in ice fall in Swiss mountains

Police received calls at 6.20 am reporting that mountaineers had been caught up in falling seracs — columns of glacial ice formed by crevasses — on the Grand Combin, a glacial massif near the Italian border in the Wallis region.

Seven helicopters with mountain rescue experts flew to the scene, finding 17 mountaineers split among several groups.

“Two people died at the scene of the accident,” Wallis police said in a statement. They were a 40-year-old Frenchwoman and a 65-year-old man from Spain.

Nine mountaineers were airlifted to hospitals in nearby Sion and in Lausanne. Two of them are seriously injured, police said.

Other mountaineers were evacuated by helicopter.

The regional public prosecutor has opened an investigation “to determine the circumstances of this event”, the police said.

The serac fall happened at an altitude of 3,400 metres in the Plateau de Dejeuner section along the Voie du Gardien ascent route.

The Grand Combin massif has three summits above 4,000 metres, the highest of which is the Combin de Grafeneire at 4,314 metres.

The police issued a note of caution about setting off on such high-altitude expeditions.

“When the zero-degree-Celsius isotherm is around 4,000 metres above sea level, it is better to be extra careful or not attempt the route if in doubt,” Wallis police said.

“The golden rule is to find out beforehand from the mountain guides about the chosen route and its current feasibility.”

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