PARIS (Reuters) – President Emmanuel Macron said on Friday that footage showing Paris police beating up a black music producer was shameful for France and that the government should find a way to restore public confidence in the force .
Prosecutors are investigating the violent arrest of Michel Zecler, who said he was also the victim of racist abuse by police officers, after CCTV footage of the incident was released. The police watchdog is also investigating.
Four police officers were being held for questioning as part of the investigation, the Paris prosecutor’s office said.
The shots inside the entrance to a building were captured in CCTV footage and cell phones, which circulated widely online and made headlines across Europe.
“The images we have all seen of the assault on Michel Zecler are unacceptable, they are shameful for all of us. France must never allow violence or brutality, whatever its origin. France should never allow hatred or racism to flourish, ”Macron said in a statement on his Facebook page.
He added that the police should be exemplary. “Those whose job is to enforce the law should obey the law,” he said, adding that he had called on the government to make urgent proposals on how to restore confidence in the police.
Zecler’s beating risks igniting racial tensions, with repeated allegations of police brutality against black and ethnic communities high in the minds of many after the death of black American George Floyd in Minneapolis in May a triggered the “BlackLivesMatter” movement.
Dominique Sopo, chairman of the anti-racism group “SOS Racisme”, told Reuters that Zecler had been the target of a “racist attack”.
“For the police to act in this way, they must have an immense sense of impunity. This situation is a symptom of impunity that has lasted too long, ”he added.
Paris police have already been criticized this week after photos and videos on social media showed police hitting protesters as they cleared a campsite of illegal migrants in a central Paris square.
The music producer told reporters he was attacked by police at his studio in Paris’ 17th arrondissement on Saturday.
He said he was walking the street without a face mask – against French COVID-19 health protocols – and, after seeing a police car, drove to his neighboring studio to avoid being sentenced to a fine. However, he said, the police followed him inside and started to racially assault and abuse him.
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said Thursday on France 2 television that the officers would be punished if the alleged wrongdoing was confirmed.
Zecler’s arrest came amid a heated debate in France over a bill that would limit journalists’ ability to document French police officers on the job.
Around 3,500 people marched against the bill in the western city of Nantes, where police used tear gas and made several arrests. Many demonstrators also protested against police violence, some with their faces bandaged in support of Michel Zecler. A similar event is scheduled for Saturday in Paris.
“BlackLivesMatter” protests erupted in Paris in June over the murder of George Floyd, who died after a white policeman knelt on his neck as he arrested him.
The outrage over Floyd’s death resonated in France, particularly in the underprivileged suburbs of cities where the police often clash with young people from ethnic minorities.
Protests in Paris in June focused on unresolved cases of people who died in police operations, such as Adama Traore, who died in police custody near Paris in 2016.