French authorities on Tuesday opened an investigation and ordered the suspension of police officers after they were filmed beating a black music producer in central Paris in footage that sparked new anger at the behavior of the security forces.
Images released by online news site Loopsider showed the music producer, identified only as Michel, being repeatedly beaten as he attempted to enter a music studio in Paris’ 17th arrondissement .
The incident comes after a series of high-profile investigations into police violence against black and Arab citizens and as concern grows over new legislation that would restrict the press’s right to publish images of police faces .
The man himself was initially arrested for violence and non-obedience to the police. But prosecutors rejected the investigation and opened an investigation against the police themselves for committing violence while in positions of authority.
“I ask the prefect of police (of Paris) to temporarily suspend the police officers concerned”, wrote on Twitter the Minister of the Interior Gerald Darmanin.
The man’s lawyer, Hafida El Ali, told AFP that his client had been detained for 48 hours on the basis of “lies by the police who had outrageously assaulted him”.
Paris prosecutor Rémy Heitz told AFP that he had asked the Inspectorate General of the National Police (IGPN) to shed light on what happened as quickly as possible.
“It is a very important matter in my opinion and I have followed it personally,” he said.
Loopsider, who has exposed several episodes of police brutality in recent months, said the footage “had to be seen to understand the full extent of the problem.”
Loopsider said Michel was initially arrested for not wearing a mask and racially abused by police.
“People who should have protected me attacked me. I didn’t do anything to deserve this. I just want these three people to be punished according to the law, ”Michel told reporters on Thursday when he arrived at the IGPN with his lawyer to file a complaint.
The socialist mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, declared herself “deeply shocked” “by an intolerable act (…) of exceptional gravity”.
A close ally of President Emmanuel Macron, President of Parliament Richard Ferrand, was also alarmed, writing on Twitter that the illegitimate use of force by the police “has eroded the essential bond of trust between citizens and those who protect, and must be punished without weakness. “
There has already been fierce criticism of the police this week after using tear gas on Monday evening to evacuate migrants from a camp in central Paris.
Prosecutors have opened investigations into the use of violence against a journalist and a migrant in this incident.
The beating of the producer is now putting new pressure on Paris police chief Didier Lallement, who has faced tough questions from critics and the media about the dispersal of migrants.
“Would still be in prison”
The lower house of parliament on Tuesday evening gave its initial approval to a security bill that would restrict the publication of photos or videos of police faces, although it still faces other legislative hurdles.
Media unions say this could give police the green light to prevent journalists from doing their jobs and potentially documenting abuses.
“If we didn’t have the videos (of Michel’s beating), my client would be in jail,” lawyer El Ali said.
Macron came to power in 2017 as a centrist who rallied support from all political backgrounds. But critics and even some supporters accuse him of leaning to the right as he seeks re-election in 2022.
Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.