Paris (AP) – punches. Over and over. Bustle. Three to one. Disturbing scenes. What is happening there, asks all of France. It is the video of a police operation that leaves you bewildered and angry.
A music producer is brutally attacked by three police officers at the entrance to his recording studio in Paris – it is he who ends up in police custody. His happiness: a private security camera films the incident. Even President Emmanuel Macron responded – he was said to be “very shocked.” Is that enough?
It is the second time in a week that police violence has turned France upside down. A few days ago, it was video footage of the aggressive evacuation of a migrant camp in Paris that left many speechless. The incidents fuel the discussion about a security law with which the government wants to better protect the police while limiting video recordings of police operations.
Police brutality continues to occur in France – often revealed through video recordings. A look at the recent past is sufficient. During the protests of the “Yellow West”, photos of brutal police operations circulated. The security forces also used hard rubber bullets against peaceful protesters, several people were seriously injured in the face and lost an eye. There was international criticism.
In January, a scooter driver died after a police check – his autopsy revealed a broken larynx. Again, a video shows the incident. In the summer, thousands demonstrated against racism and police violence. The protests were organized by the sister of a young black man who died during his arrest in 2016. Many see a structural problem with the French police.
The music producer Michel Z. is also black. He claims to have been racially insulted by the officers several times. He describes walking around his studio in the 17th arrondissement without a corona mask, although this is mandatory. Then a police car came and went into the studio a few yards away. The police followed him. Then the security camera starts recording, about eight and a half minutes.
The photos show how the agents push and hit Z. into the entrance. “I always said to myself, if you fall to the ground now, you will stay there. Then you can’t get up ”, the producer tells the magazine “Loopsider”, which published the recordings. With the help of musicians from the studio basement, he can finally push the police out of the studio. A few minutes later, a tear gas cartridge flies into the studio. According to reports, officials said Z. had attacked them.
The recordings show something else. The public prosecutor is conducting an investigation. The three police officers involved and one of their colleagues were suspended Friday afternoon and taken into police custody for questioning. Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin is under pressure. He demands that the officers be fired if the wrongdoing is confirmed. They had “soiled the uniform of the Republic”. Still, he seems quite challenging. Darmanin is considered a conservative hardliner, the face of law and order. He’s defending the police. And yes, this is also under pressure from the terrorist attacks in the country.
It is also Darmamin who, despite massive criticism, defends the new security law. It must “protect those who protect us”. A controversial article states that publishing photos of security guards in action with the aim of harming the physical or mental integrity of police officers is punished. A buttery formula with plenty of room for interpretation. Many media fear the freedom of the press.
The government continues to argue that press freedom is not compromised – that is hardly convincing. Prime Minister Jean Castex now wanted an “independent committee” that would work on the wording of the article – Parliament went to the barricades, Castex withdrew. Police had initially banned a demonstration against the law in Paris on Saturday. After a court decision, the protest march can still take place. A meeting on the Place de la République is also allowed. The situation there had only just escalated – with the evacuation of the migrant camp.