Outcry grows in France after police filmed beating Black music producer


By AGENCY

This TV grab taken on Nov 26, 2020 from an AFP video shows French music producer, identified only as Michel, talking to the media next to his lawyer Hafida El Ali, outside the IGPN (France's National Police General Inspectorate) as he arrives to press charges after he was repeatedly beaten by police forces as he tried to enter a music studio in the 17th district of Paris on Nov 21, 2020. Photo: AFP

A video of police beating a black music producer in Paris triggered outrage and condemnation on Thursday (Nov 26), leading to the suspension of several officers and a public backlash that drew in French World Cup football stars.

The incident comes after a string of high-profile probes into police violence and as concern grows over new legislation proposed by the government that would restrict the right of citizens to film and publish images of police on duty.

Online news site Loopsider published security camera images on Thursday showing three officers punching, kicking and using their truncheons on the producer, identified as Michel, as he entered his studio in the French capital late on Saturday.

The beating lasted around five minutes, during which Michel said he was repeatedly subjected to racist abuse, before he was dragged out of the building in the northwestern 17th district of the capital.

He was initially arrested for violence and failure to obey the police. But prosecutors threw out the probe and instead opened an investigation against the police officers themselves for committing violence while in a position of authority.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin told French television that the officers "had soiled the uniform of the republic" and that he would press for their dismissal.

Police sources said four officers had been suspended in total.

As the hashtag #Michel trended on French social media, politicians and footballers who played on France's 2018 World Cup winning team denounced the latest evidence which comes amid a wider debate in France about police methods.

The death in US police custody of George Floyd in May has also reverberated in France where allegations of brutality against police officers are commonplace, particularly in poor and ethnically diverse areas in the country's major cities.

"People who should have been protecting me attacked me. I did nothing to deserve this. I just want these three people to be punished because we have a good justice system in France," Michel told journalists on Thursday.

"I was lucky to have videos which protect me, unlike a lot of others, otherwise I would not be here with you today," he added.

Michel's lawyer, Hafida El Ali, told AFP that his client had been detained for 48 hours after the beating on the basis of "lies by the police who had outrageously attacked him".

Paris prosecutor Remy Heitz told AFP that he had asked France's National Police General Inspectorate (IGPN) to shed light on what happened "as quickly as possible".

Read also: French interior minister slams top actress over 'shameful' police criticism

Exceptionally serious

Loopsider, which has exposed several episodes of police violence in recent months, said that the images "had to be seen to understand the full extent of the problem".

Michel told the site he was in the street not wearing a face mask on Saturday, but went inside his studio when police arrived.

The beating took place in the hallway of the building, with the violence captured on CCTV.

Paris' Socialist mayor Anne Hidalgo said she was "profoundly shocked" "by an intolerable act ... that is exceptionally serious."

Football stars on the 2018 squad such as Antoine Griezmann, Samuel Umtiti and Kylian Mbappe all denounced the images.

"Unbearable video, unacceptable violence," Mbappe wrote on Twitter next to a picture of the injured producer. "Say no to racism." – AFP

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