Four French police officers charged with brutal beating of Black music producer
By James McAuley,
PARIS — Four French police officers were charged Monday with assaulting a Black music producer last week, an episode captured on video footage that has stunned the French public and shaken the government.
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.
President Emmanuel Macron said in a Facebook post Friday that the images of Zecler’s beating “shame us,” and he urged the French government to devise new protocols that would “reaffirm the link of confidence that should naturally exist between the French and those who protect them.”
“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,” Zecler said in an interview with the Associated Press. He added that he suffered injuries to his head, legs and forearms.
Three of the officers involved in the incident have been charged with “intentional violence by a person in public authority,” as well with falsifying statements that documented the incident. The fourth officer has been charged only with “intentional violence.” Two of the four have been granted conditional release.
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.
French riot police face protesters at the Place de la Bastille as a fire burns behind them during demonstrations against the French government’s global security law, on Nov. 28, 2020, in Paris.