French Police Charged in Beating, Racial Abuse of Black Man

Four French police officers have been charged in connection to the beating and racial abuse of a black music producer, a judicial source said Monday, days after the incident in Paris that intensified controversy over a proposed security law. The beating of music producer Michel Zecler — exposed in video footage published last week — has become a focus of anger against the police, who critics accuse of institutionalized racism and targeting black and Arab people. Tens of thousands protested Saturday against a security bill, which would restrict the right to publish images of on-duty police. Police said 81 people were arrested at the protests, with Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin saying the violence was unacceptable. An investigating magistrate ruled early Monday morning to charge the officers with “willful violence by a person holding public authority” and forgery, a judicial source told AFP. Two remain behind bars, while the other two were put on conditional release, the source added. Paris prosecutor Remy Heitz on Sunday had called for the officers to be charged specifically with using racial abuse.Fire-fighters pull off a fire on a burning car during a demonstration against a security law that would restrict sharing images of police, Nov. 28, 2020 in Paris.Racial abuse chargesAhead of the charges, the four officers had been questioned by the police’s National Police Inspectorate General on suspicion of using violence and racial abuse. Heitz said three of the officers should remain in custody “to avoid the perpetrators communicating or putting pressure on witnesses.” He also called for charges of intentional violence, racial abuse and posting a false police report. The fourth officer, who arrived on the scene later and fired a tear gas canister, should be freed under conditions and charged with intentional violence, he said. The four officers had a good service record before the incident, he said, and claimed they had acted “out of fear.” Zecler had been stopped for not wearing a mask and because of a strong smell of cannabis. But only a tiny quantity of the substance was found, he said. Lawyers representing three of the officers declined to comment Monday on the charges. Law controversyCommentators say that the images of the beating, first published by the Loopsider news site, might never have been made public if the contentious Article 24 of the security legislation was made law. The bill would criminalize publishing images of on-duty police with the intent of harming their “physical or psychological integrity.” It was passed by the National Assembly although it is awaiting Senate approval. 

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