Sunday, October 24, 2021

Anger over French police brutality forces Macron to change course

A new law to outlaw photographing or videoing police officers is now being 'reworded' as a result of the attack and subsequent demonstrations.

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Four French policemen are under criminal investigation over the beating of black music producer Michel Zecler in Paris, after a video of the incident surfaced causing national outrage.

The assault happened at Zecler’s studio earlier this month and the video came to light last week. Zecler, who needed stitches, says he was also racially abused during the beating.

The police attack, together with rising anger over a new law proposing to penalise the sharing of video or photos of police, has forced French politicians to agree to rethink and rewrite controversial parts of the security bill aimed at protecting police officers.

There were huge protests across France at the weekend against Article 24 of the bill, which has raised fears the new law could stop people exposing police brutality.

Demonstrators were calling attention to the so-called “global security law” which also includes controversial provisions that critics say would expand the state’s right to monitor its citizens.

Following the protests against infringing on free speech and limiting police accountability, French President Emmanuel Macron’s ruling party on Monday promised to change the proposed security law designed to restrict the filming of police officers.

“We are resolved to protect our police forces but to remove doubts and misunderstandings we are therefore going to propose a complete new wording of Article 24,” the leader of Macron’s party, told a press conference.

Critics say media freedom and citizens’ right to film any kind of police action must not be impeded, as the French police are now under intense scrutiny for alleged racism.

In the Zecler case, in addition to the “intentional violence” charge, four officers are accused of forgery. That charge relates to the police report filed after the incident, which said “a strong smell of cannabis” had emanated from Zecler and that he resisted a search.

At the weekend, prosecutors said the officers had admitted that their violence against Zecler was unjustified but said they acted out of panic after he resisted them in the cramped surroundings of the studio.

Prosecutors argued that three of the police officers should be remanded in custody to stop any attempt to co-ordinate their stories. But the judge said only two would remain in detention.

Tensions on the street remain as agitators with their smartphones ready and set on video record take the opportunity to try to provoke police officers into racist or abusive reactions.

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