Four police officers in France have been suspended from duty after a video depicting their brutal treatment of a black man was shared on social media on Thursday. In the video, the officers are seen violently kicking and beating a black man. The incident has sparked an outrage over racial violence in France and globally, and has also prompted a response from French President Emmanuel Macron, who termed the incident “shameful.”
The victim of the assault, 41-year-old music producer named Michel Zecler, was apprehended by police for not wearing a face mask in accordance with COVID-19 measures in Paris. As he headed towards his studio, the police officers violently thrashed Zecler into the doorway and proceeded to beat him with their fists and a club. The violent assault was interrupted only at the interference of other people in the building, after which the police forced Zecler’s eviction from the building using tear-gas and arrested him.
Zecler was kept in jail for 48 hours following the incident of false charges of violence, resisting arrest, and attempting to seize police weapons.
A video of the incident, captured through surveillance cameras, was shared on social media on Thursday. Shared by Loopsider, a French digital news outlet, the video garnered more than 8 million views. In the video, Zecler appears the victim of violence, contrary to police claims. In an interview with Loopsider, he confessed to fearing for his life, saying: “I thought it was my last day.”
Zecler also claimed that the officers used racial slurs against him as they assaulted him.
Following the public outrage caused by the video, the concerned officers were suspended from duty and are currently in police custody. According to Zecler’s lawayers, a formal complaint has been launched against the officers for the incident, as well as for fabricating evidence.
According to the Paris prosecutor’s office, the false charges against Zecler have been dropped.
French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, in a statement on Thursday, said the officers have “sullied the uniform of the Republic” and would face consequences for their actions.
French President Emmanuel Macron addressed the situation in a post on Facebook, in which he condemned violence both against and by the police. He said such incidents “shame us,” and that the government must promptly work “to reaffirm the link of confidence that should naturally exist between the French and those who protect them.”
This incident is the second of its kind in recent times, and comes when President Macron’s government has been under criticism for pushing a controversial legislation that seeks to restrict the filming of police activity. Human rights activists and journalists deems such a bill antithetical to democratic principles, and claim that such security policies are a gateway to increased and unaccounted for police brutality.