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Four French police officers charged over beating of black music producer as Macron calls emergency summit

Four French police officers have been charged in connection with the beating of a black man in Paris, as President Emmanuel Macron summoned ministers to an emergency summit.

Four French police officers charged over beating of black music producer as Macron calls emergency summit
French President Emmanuel Macron. Photo: AFP

Macron summoned cabinet ministers and parliamentary leaders to a crisis meeting Monday to rapidly produce “suggestions to re-establish confidence” between the police and the population, government sources said.

The meeting was called after an examining magistrate charged three of officers with “wilful violence by a person holding public authority” and “forgery” following the beating of a man in Paris on November 21st.
 
A video published last week showed music producer Michel Zecler repeatedly beaten by three officers for several minutes and subjected to racial abuse as he tried to enter his music studio.
 
Two officers were kept behind bars while the other two were put on conditional release.

The officer suspected of having thrown a tear gas grenade into the basement of the building where the attack occurred was charged with “wilful violence”.

Later on Monday, Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin will face questions from a parliamentary commission over the new security law, which would restrict the right of the press – and of social media users – to publish images of on-duty police.

EXPLAINED: The new French law that restricts photos and videos of police officers

 

The prosecution had requested pre-trial detention for the first three, and a judicial review for the fourth.

Lawyers for the group of three of the officers declined to comment after the magistrate's decision early on Monday morning.

The video showing the beating of Zecler became a rallying cause for anger against the police in France, accused by critics of institutionalised racism.

Protesters carry placards showing President Emmanuel Macron and Paris police prefect Didier Lallement in Paris on November 28th. Photo: AFP

Commentators say that the images of the beating – first published by the Loopsider news site – may never have been made public if the contentious Article 24 of the security legislation was made law.

The bill would criminalise publishing images of on-duty police with the manifest intent of harming their “physical or psychological integrity”.

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

Masses of people took to the streets in Paris and several other French cities on Saturday to protest the new security law. The interior ministry said 46,000 people marched in Paris and 133,000 in total nationwide while organisers said the figure was 200,000 in Paris and 500,000 nationwide.

French riot police officers take position next to a burning barricade during the protests in Paris on November 28th. Photo: AFP

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

Among those hurt was an award-winning Syrian photojournalist, Ameer Alhabi, seen with a bruised face and much of his head covered in bandages in AFP photos.

A firefighter carries on a stretcher Syrian freelance photographer Ameer Al Halbi who was injured during clashes in a demonstration against the 'global security' draft law, restricting sharing images of officers. Photo: FP

Christophe Deloire, secretary general of Reporters Without Borders, tweeted that the 24-year-old had been wounded at Place de la Bastille by “a police baton” and condemned the violence.

France's interior ministry said 62 police officers were injured and 81 people arrested during the nationwide protests. Interior Minister Darmanin on Saturday condemned “unacceptable” violence against police in the nationwide protests.

READ ALSO Protests in France: Interior minister condemns violence after 62 police officers injured

The controversy over the law and police violence is developing into another crisis for Macron and his government as he confronts the pandemic, its economic fallout and a host of problems on the international stage.

Macron said on Friday that the images of Zecler's beating “shame us” and asked the French government to come up with proposals to “fight against discrimination”.

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

A series of high-profile cases against police officers over mistreatment of black or Arab citizens has raised accusations of institutionalised racism. The force has insisted violations are the fault of isolated individuals.

 

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PROTESTS

Clashes mar rally against far right in north-west France

Riot police clashed with demonstrators in the north-western French city of Rennes on Thursday in the latest rally against the rise of the far-right ahead of a national election this month.

Clashes mar rally against far right in north-west France

The rally ended after dozens of young demonstrators threw bottles and other projectiles at police, who responded with tear gas.

The regional prefecture said seven arrests were made among about 80 people who took positions in front of the march through the city centre.

The rally was called by unions opposed to Marine Le Pen’s far-right Rassemblement National party (RN), which is tipped to make major gains in France’s looming legislative elections. The first round of voting is on June 30.

“We express our absolute opposition to reactionary, racist and anti-Semitic ideas and to those who carry them. There is historically a blood division between them and us,” Fabrice Le Restif, regional head of the FO union, one of the organisers of the rally, told AFP.

Political tensions have been heightened by the rape of a 12-year-old Jewish girl in a Paris suburb, for which two 13-year-old boys have been charged. The RN has been among political parties to condemn the assault.

Several hundred people protested against anti-Semitism and ‘rape culture’ in Paris in the latest reaction.

Dominique Sopo, president of anti-racist group SOS Racisme, said it was “an anti-Semitic crime that chills our blood”.

Hundreds had already protested on Wednesday in Paris and Lyon amid widespread outrage over the assault.

The girl told police three boys aged between 12 and 13 approached her in a park near her home in the Paris suburb of Courbevoie on Saturday, police sources said.

She was dragged into a shed where the suspects beat and raped her, “while uttering death threats and anti-Semitic remarks”, one police source told AFP.

France has the largest Jewish community of any country outside Israel and the United States.

At Thursday’s protest, Arie Alimi, a lawyer known for tackling police brutality and vice-president of the French Human Rights League, said voters had to prevent the far-right from seizing power and “installing a racist, anti-Semitic and sexist policy”.

But he also said he was sad to hear, “anti-Semitic remarks from a part of those who say they are on the left”.

President Emmanuel Macron called the elections after the far-right thrashed his centrist alliance in European Union polls. The far-right and left-wing groups have accused each other of being anti-Semitic.

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