PARIS — 4 law enforcement officials have been charged over the beating of a Black music producer in Paris this month, the authorities in France stated on Monday, in a case that has shocked the nation and compelled the federal government to reckon with persistent accusations of police brutality and racism.
Graphic video posted on social media confirmed three officers pummeling the music producer, Michel Zecler, 41, with fists, ft and a baton on Nov. 21 within the entrance to a recording studio within the seventeenth arrondissement of Paris, whereas one other threw a tear-gas canister by the window. Mr. Zecler stated that a number of officers had additionally used a racial slur in opposition to him.
The footage, which was taken from a safety digicam and obtained by Loopsider, a French digital information outlet, was at odds with the officers’ account of the occasions, and outrage in France was swift.
The authorities rapidly suspended the officers and opened an investigation. President Emmanuel Macron stated in an announcement on his Fb web page on Friday that the pictures of the beating “deliver disgrace upon us,” at the same time as his authorities comes beneath rising stress over a safety invoice that will prohibit sharing photos of law enforcement officials.
The 4 officers had been positioned beneath formal investigation late Sunday and charged with assault, together with the usage of a weapon, a French judicial official stated on Monday. Some had been additionally charged with the usage of racial insults, the official stated.
The official, who was not approved to talk publicly a few persevering with investigation, stated that the three officers accused of beating Mr. Zecler had additionally been charged with forgery of official paperwork — over suspicions that the officers had lied of their police report concerning the occasions — whereas the officer accused of throwing the tear-gas canister had additionally been charged with damaging non-public property.
The authorities haven’t publicly recognized the officers past their ages: 44, 35, 31 and 23. Two of them have been detained, whereas the others, together with the one accused of throwing the tear-gas canister, had been launched beneath judicial management.
Rémy Heitz, the Paris prosecutor, stated in a information convention on Sunday night that the officers initially stated that that they had been making an attempt to cease Mr. Zecler as a result of he was not sporting a masks, which is necessary in France due to the coronavirus pandemic, and since he was emanating a “sturdy scent of hashish.” The officers additionally stated that Mr. Zecler had tried to keep away from them by getting into the studio, that he had dragged the officers in with him and that he had been violent.
Mr. Heitz stated that the police later discovered barely 0.5 grams of hashish — lower than 0.02 ounces — in Mr. Zecler’s bag and that the safety digicam footage confirmed that the officers had adopted Mr. Zecler inside earlier than beating him, whereas Mr. Zecler didn’t seem violent towards the officers.
Mr. Heitz stated that the officers had admitted beneath questioning that their blows in opposition to Mr. Zecler “weren’t justified” however that that they had instructed investigators that that they had been performing “beneath the affect of concern” as a result of that they had been unable to deliver a struggling Mr. Zecler beneath management within the cramped entrance to the recording studio.
Footage filmed by a neighbor and printed final week by Loopsider confirmed, nonetheless, that one officer continued to hit Mr. Zecler on the road at the same time as he was surrounded by a few dozen different officers. A number of younger artists who had been attending a recording session on the studio had been additionally hit by the police, in keeping with the video.
Mr. Heitz additionally stated that the officers, who haven’t been concerned in earlier incidents, denied utilizing a racial slur.
The beating has fueled longstanding frustration that the French authorities is doing little to handle accusations of police violence, particularly in opposition to ethnic minorities. Mr. Macron stated in his assertion on Fb final week that he had requested the federal government to provide you with proposals to revive the general public’s confidence within the police — a requirement he has already made twice this 12 months, first in January when a deliveryman died after law enforcement officials pinned him to the bottom and put him in a chokehold, then once more in June amid the worldwide fallout over George Floyd’s killing.
However the beating has additionally struck a nerve amid newer discontent over Mr. Macron’s safety insurance policies, which critics say infringe on civil liberties and defend the police from scrutiny.
Tens of 1000’s of individuals protested round France over the weekend in opposition to a safety invoice that will prohibit sharing photos of law enforcement officials. The invoice was handed by the decrease home of Parliament and nonetheless must be thought of by the Senate, however the authorities is already dealing with mounting calls for from civil rights teams, journalist unions and left-wing opposition events for the revision or removing of key provisions.
That stress has escalated since Mr. Zecler’s beating, despite the fact that it’s not clear that the invoice — which might criminalize the broadcasting of “the face or every other figuring out component” of on-duty law enforcement officials if the objective is to “bodily or mentally hurt” them — would have utilized within the case.
Frédéric Veaux, the pinnacle of the French nationwide police, stated in an interview with the Journal du Dimanche newspaper on Sunday that he had been “scandalized, like the remainder of the police on this nation” by the assault, evaluating the officers who beat Mr. Zecler to “criminals” and promising that the police can be geared up with 15,000 new physique cameras by subsequent summer time.
However Mr. Veaux denied that the connection between the police and the French inhabitants was “broken.”
“The police is a mirrored image of society, is it not on the margins,” he stated, including that there had been a “disinhibition” of the violence towards safety forces over the previous few years, particularly after the Yellow Vest protests.
Whereas the demonstrations on Saturday in opposition to the safety invoice had been principally peaceable, they had been marred by violent clashes between the police and demonstrators later within the day.
An unbiased photographer from Syria, Ameer al-Halbi, was badly damage when he was hit within the face by a police officer wielding a baton, which the pinnacle of Reporters With out Borders referred to as “unacceptable.” Gérald Darmanin, the French inside minister, stated almost 100 safety forces had additionally been wounded, together with one police officer in riot gear who was violently overwhelmed by demonstrators in Paris.