Four French police officers accused of violently beating a black music producer filmed

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Four police officers have been charged after allegedly beating and racially assaulting a black music producer in Paris.

Images of last week’s attack on Michel Zecler have gone viral in France, sparking a wave of protests and renewed anti-police sentiment.

Critics accused the force of institutionalized racism and of targeting blacks and Arabs, and the incident added to the controversy surrounding a new security law.

Four police officers charged after beating black music producer Michel Zecler in Paris

Tens of thousands of people demonstrated on Saturday against the security bill, which would restrict the right to post images of police officers on duty. The rally in Paris ended with bitter clashes.

An examining magistrate decided early Monday morning to charge the officers with “deliberate violence by a person in public authority” and “forgery”, a judicial source told AFP.

Two were kept behind bars, while the other two were released on conditional release, the source added.

On Sunday, the Paris prosecutor, Remy Heitz, asked that the police be specifically charged with racial abuse.

Critics accused the force of institutionalized racism and of targeting blacks and Arabs

Critics accused the force of institutionalized racism and targeting blacks and Arabs

Zecler was arrested for not wearing a mask and because of a strong smell of cannabis

Zecler was arrested for not wearing a mask and because of a strong smell of cannabis

Zecler had been arrested for not wearing a mask and because of a strong smell of cannabis. But only a tiny amount of the substance was found, his lawyer said.

Protests in Paris saw a brasserie set on fire, cars set on fire and stones thrown at security forces, who responded with tear gas and riot tactics.

Among the injured was award-winning Syrian photojournalist Ameer al-Halbi, 24, seen with a bruised face and much of his head covered in bandages in AFP photos.

Al-Halbi is a freelance photographer who worked for Polka Magazine and AFP, both of which condemned the incident in statements on Sunday.

“We are shocked at the injuries sustained by our colleague Ameer al-Halbi and condemn the unprovoked violence,” said Phil Chetwynd, AFP’s director of global news, demanding that the police investigate the incident.

Macron said on Friday that images of Zecler's beatings 'shame us' and called on the French government to come up with proposals to 'fight discrimination'

Macron said on Friday that images of Zecler’s beatings “made us feel ashamed” and called on the French government to come up with proposals to “fight discrimination”

Al-Halbi was unable to make it to hospital for several hours and said it reminded him of being in the Syrian civil war in his hometown.

“It was Aleppo that came back to me last night,” he said.

Police said 81 people were arrested during the protests, with Home Secretary Gerald Darmanin saying the violence was “unacceptable”.

In a tweet, Darmanin said 98 police officers were injured during the protests, adding: “Those who are behind the violence will be prosecuted. ”

Among those injured in Saturday's protests was award-winning Syrian photojournalist Ameer al-Halbi, 24, seen with a bruised face and much of his head covered in bandages.

Among those injured in Saturday’s protests was award-winning Syrian photojournalist Ameer al-Halbi, 24, seen with a bruised face and much of his head covered in bandages.

Before the charges, the four police officers had been questioned by the General Inspectorate of the National Police (IGPN) on suspicion of resorting to violence and racial abuse.

Heitz said three of the officers should remain in detention “to prevent the perpetrators from disclosing or pressuring witnesses.”

He called for charges of intentional violence, racial abuse and publishing a false police report.

The fourth man, who later arrived at the scene and fired a tear gas canister, should be conditionally released and charged with intentional violence, he said.

Police drag man on the ground during a demonstration against the 'global security' bill in Paris on Saturday

Police drag man on the ground during a demonstration against the “global security” bill in Paris on Saturday

New law would criminalize posting images of police officers on duty with the intent to harm their 'physical or psychological integrity'

The new law would criminalize the publication of images of police officers on duty with the intention of harming their “physical or psychological integrity”

All four officers had good service records prior to the incident, he said, and claimed they had acted “out of fear”.

Lawyers representing three of the officers declined to comment on the charges on Monday.

Commentators say footage of the beating – first published by the Loopsider news site – may never have been made public if the contentious section 24 of the safety legislation had been passed.

The bill would criminalize the publication of images of police officers on duty with the intention of harming their “physical or psychological integrity”.

It was adopted by the National Assembly although it is awaiting Senate approval.

For critics, the legislation is further evidence of a shift to the right by Macron, who came to power in 2017 as a centrist promising liberal reform of France.

For critics, the legislation is further evidence of a shift to the right by Macron, who came to power in 2017 as a centrist promising liberal reform of France.

The controversy over the law and police violence turns into another crisis for the government as President Emmanuel Macron grapples with the pandemic, its economic fallout and a host of problems on the international stage.

Macron said on Friday that images of Zecler’s beatings “made us feel ashamed” and called on the French government to come up with proposals to “fight discrimination”.

For critics, the legislation is further evidence of a shift to the right by Macron, who came to power in 2017 as a centrist promising liberal reform of France.

But the bill is increasingly called into question.

“Frankly, I am not closed to anything,” said Yael Braun-Pivet, a member of Macron’s ruling party who chairs the parliamentary committee on legal affairs.

“We have had times when we have modified or even deleted articles,” he told France Inter radio.

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