French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday said images of police beating a Black music producer in Paris “shames us”, as pressure on the government mounted with top politicians and sportsmen expressing outrage over the incident.
A day after a French news site published footage of the brutal police attack, sparking widespread condemnations, Macron said the images “shame us. France must never resign itself to violence or brutality, no matter where it comes from. France must never allow hatred or racism to flourish”.
He also said he had asked the government to come up with proposals to restore the public's confidence in the police and to fight against all forms of discrimination.
The footage of police beating music producer, Michel Zecler in the 17th arrondissement (district) of the French capital over the weekend was the latest in a series of images of police violence published in recent days. It comes as the government is trying to push through controversial new security legislation that would restrict the right of the media to publish the faces of police agents.
Four police officers were detained for questioning on Friday over the beating of Zecler, AFP reported, citing a source close to the case.
The officers, who were suspended from duty on Thursday, were being held at the National Police Inspectorate General (IGPN), which is investigating charges of violence by a person in authority and false testimony.
Pressure on interior minister, Paris police chief
Article 24 of the "Comprehensive Security" bill, passed during a first reading by the lower house of parliament on Tuesday, would criminalise the publication of images of on-duty police officers with the intent of harming their "physical or psychological integrity".
Media and human rights groups have raised alarm about the possible impact on journalists covering police operations, warning that the wording is intended to dissuade citizens from videoing police and holding them accountable.
It has also increased pressure on Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin and raised questions over the future of Paris police chief Didier Lallement, who was already in the spotlight after the forced removal of a migrant camp in Paris earlier in the week that has been widely condemned.
In an interview the France 2 television, Darmanin said the officers involved in Zecler’s beating "had soiled the uniform of the republic".
Zecler was initially 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.
"Nausea," said the front page headline in the leftist Libération daily newspaper 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.
Saturday protest against security law
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.
The latest police brutality video sparked condemnation on social media sites, with top footballers such as Kylian Mbappé joining his French national teammates and other athletes in calling for an end to racism.
"Unbearable video, unacceptable violence," Mbappé wrote on Twitter next to a picture of the injured producer, "Say no to racism."
A protest against the draft law, which has yet to pass a Senate vote, has been called for Saturday in Paris.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)