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Video of Police Beating Black Man in Paris Fuels Debate on Filming Officers

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PARIS — Video of cops beating a Black man in Paris brought about an outcry in France on Thursday, fueling criticism of a new bill that may place restrictions on sharing footage of safety forces because the French authorities grapple with longstanding accusations of police racism and brutality.

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The beating, on Saturday, solely got here to mild due to a graphic video posted Thursday on social media by Loopsider, a French digital information outlet. By Thursday night, it had been seen greater than 8 million occasions — days after video of police forcefully clearing migrants from a protest camp in Paris sparked a similar outcry.

Prosecutors in Paris have opened an investigation into the beating, and the officers concerned have been suspended. The police in Paris additionally mentioned that an inner inquiry had been opened.

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“They sullied the uniform of the Republic,” Gérald Darmanin, the French inside minister, advised France 2 tv on Thursday night, including that if investigations confirmed the officers had acted wrongly — there was “little doubt,” he mentioned — they might be fired.

The crushed man, Michel Zecler, a music producer, advised Loopsider that he had been approaching his recording studio on Saturday night when he noticed a police automotive on a side-street within the seventeenth Arrondissement, an upscale residential space of northwestern Paris.

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Fearing a wonderful as a result of he was not carrying a masks, which is necessary in France due to the coronavirus pandemic, Mr. Zecler mentioned he rapidly entered the studio. Three cops exited the automotive and adopted him inside.

Security camera footage obtained by Loopsider reveals {that a} scuffle started when Mr. Zecler resisted the officers as they grabbed him. The officers pummeled him repeatedly over a number of minutes, utilizing their fists and toes, in addition to a police baton. Mr. Zecler mentioned that the officers additionally had insulted him and used a racial slur in opposition to him.

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Alerted by the commotion and Mr. Zecler’s cries for assist, a bunch of younger artists who have been attending a recording session within the studio’s basement got here upstairs, and managed to push the police out the door, simply as reinforcements have been arriving.

The police tried to drive their manner again into the studio, in keeping with movies filmed by neighbors and obtained by Loopsider, earlier than throwing a tear-gas canister by means of the window, which rapidly stuffed the small enclosed entrance with gasoline.

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“‘It’s my final day and I don’t know why,’” Mr. Zecler mentioned he was pondering on the time, telling Loopsider that the beating left bruises throughout his physique, a torn tendon and a head wound.

A number of officers pointed firearms towards the doorway. Mr. Zecler got here out and was arrested, as have been the 9 younger males from the recording studio, who advised Loopsider that they have been additionally held at gunpoint and hit by officers. The 9 males have been launched the identical day with out cost.

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Mr. Zecler was held for 48 hours, accused of violence in opposition to the police and resisting arrest, however the Paris prosecutor’s workplace dropped the costs after his lawyer introduced video of the incident to the police. The prosecutor’s workplace declined to specify whether or not the costs had been dropped due to the footage.

Chatting with reporters in Paris on Thursday, Mr. Zecler mentioned the incident had left him feeling fearful.

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“The people who find themselves supposed to guard me are holding me at gunpoint,” he mentioned, including that many cops “did their work effectively” and that he felt fortunate the incident had been caught on video.

“I would really like that it by no means occur once more, for anybody,” he mentioned. “Digital camera or no digital camera.”

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Hafida El Ali, Mr. Zecler’s lawyer, advised reporters that he was “fortunate to have these movies” displaying acts of police violence which are “remoted” however “exist.”

“If we didn’t have that, sadly, he would clearly be detained,” Ms. El Ali advised reporters in Paris after having filed a proper grievance in opposition to the officers. “As a result of it’s his phrase in opposition to the phrase of the cops, and we all know completely effectively that it’s the cops that may win.”

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The beating got here amid heated debates over a brand new safety invoice pushed by President Emmanuel Macron’s authorities, which features a provision that prescribes a penalty of a 12 months in jail and a wonderful of about $54,000 for anybody who broadcasts “the face or some other figuring out component” of cops in motion if the aim is to “bodily or mentally hurt” them.

Critics say that language is simply too open to interpretation and meant to discourage journalists and bystanders armed with smartphone cameras from documenting police brutality, amid rising criticism of aggressive police tactics and resistance from police unions. George Floyd’s loss of life in Minneapolis final summer season has additionally prompted scrutiny of racism within the French police drive.

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Opponents of the invoice seized upon footage of the beating to argue the invoice must be scrapped, though it was unclear that the availability would have utilized on this case. The invoice was handed by France’s decrease home of Parliament this week and will likely be examined by the French Senate in January.

“With out the movies nothing would have come out,” Julien Bayou, the top of Europe Écologie — Les Verts, France’s Inexperienced occasion, said on Twitter. “Movies that you just wish to ban. To guard cops who perform their mission with integrity? Or to ensure the impunity of this habits that dishonors the uniform?”

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The French authorities tried to quell the criticism on Thursday by asserting that it could set up a particular fee headed by France’s human rights watchdog to have a look at methods of rewriting the availability.

After the incident on Saturday, the officers mentioned of their report that that they had been attempting to cease Mr. Zecler for failing to put on a masks when, of their telling, he forcefully pushed them into the constructing, in keeping with Agence France-Presse. The officers additionally say he hit them a number of occasions and tried to seize their weapons, according to the news agency.

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However on the safety digital camera footage, the officers appear to observe Mr. Zecler inside, and he tries to guard his face and physique however doesn’t seem violent towards the officers or seem to achieve for his or her weapons.

The Paris police, citing the investigation, declined to remark.

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Mr. Darmanin argued on France 2 that the “overwhelming majority” of safety forces acted professionally, saying that solely 9,500 incidents have been flagged yearly, out of a complete of roughly 3 million police operations.

He additionally made public a preliminary inner police report on the evacuation of the migrant camp earlier this week, which faulted one officer who had tripped a operating migrant for utilizing a “disproportionate use of drive.” However the report mentioned extra time was wanted to assessment different incidents through the evacuation.

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The outcry over Mr. Zecler’s beating was swift and broad on French social media, even drawing condemnation from French sports activities stars — who’re normally much less vocal than their American counterparts on heated social debates — like Rudy Gobert or Kylian Mbappe.

Valérie Atlan, who works with Mr. Zecler on the recording studio, advised Loopsider that she didn’t perceive why he had been focused so violently.

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“I don’t know if it’s a query of pores and skin shade, a query of social standing,” she mentioned, or “a query of ‘what is that this tall Black man doing within the seventeenth, this constructing can’t be his’.”





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