French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin on Thursday ordered the suspension of three police officers involved in a brutal beating of a music producer in a studio in Paris over the weekend. Films of the incident, which show police officers repeatedly punching the black man using truncheons, were published by a news site earlier on Thursday and triggered widespread condemnation.
The video, published by the French news website Loopsider, shows the violent arrest of a music producer identified only by his first name, Michel, in the 17th arrondissement (district) of the French capital on Saturday.
Based on the written record of the police statements, Michel drew their attention because he was not wearing a mask, according to French media reports. Face masks are mandatory in Paris outdoors in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The incident came as President Emmanuel Macron’s government pushed through a new bill restricting the ability to film and upload videos of police, prompting protests from civil rights groups and concerned journalists that it would allow police brutality to go undetected and with impunity.
It came days after France launched an investigation into a violent police deployment of migrant tents in an iconic Paris square earlier this week.
In a Twitter message published hours after Loopsider published the video, Darmanin said he was asking the Paris police chief to interrupt the police officers involved as a precaution. “I hope the disciplinary process can be completed as soon as possible,” Darmanin said.
[Intervention à Paris 17ème]I am pleased that the IGPN was seized by the justice of Tuesday. I ask the police prefect to suspend the police officers concerned as a conservator. I wish the disciplinary procedure could be conducted in the shortest possible time.
– Gérald DARMANIN (@GDarmanin) November 26, 2020
Cruel blows, tear gas, accusations of race
Pictures from a security camera inside the music studio as well as video filmed by neighbors outside show three officials following Michel from the street into his studio, where they can be seen beating him and hitting him with a truncheon.
Police repeatedly used racial slurs during the battle, Michel told the press shortly after filing a complaint with the Paris headquarters of the National Inspectorate of National Police (IGPN). “People who have to protect me are attacking me … I did nothing to deserve this,” he said in the presence of his lawyer. “I just want these three people to be punished by the law.”
In their report, the police wrote that the man had met them. But the photos from the incident showed no signs that the victim opposed the arrest.
In the second part of a video, people who were in the basement of the studio manage to reach the entrance, which causes the police to withdraw and the studio door closes.
The police then try to force open the door and throw a tear gas canister inside the studio, which makes the room smoke.
After the incident, the victim was initially placed in police custody as part of an investigation by the Paris Public Prosecutor’s Office into “violence against a person holding public office” and “rebellion”.
But prosecutors closed this investigation and launched a new trial on Tuesday for “violence against public officials” and “forgery in public writing”, which was entrusted to IGPN.
‘I believe in my country’s justice’
Hours after the publication on Loopsider, the video went viral on social media with several prominent Frenchmen and women, including football player Antoine Griezmann, and condemned the police’s brutality.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Michel said he felt safe “now that the truth is out”, adding: “I want to understand why I have been attacked by people wearing police uniforms. I want justice indeed, because I believe in the justice of my country, he said.
His lawyer, Hafida El Ali, said: “He asked them what they wanted, if they wanted to verify his identity. (…) They did not stop beating him, the video about the violence (inside the studio) lasts for 12 minutes. ”
El Ali said nine others who recorded music in the studio basement were also beaten.
“Outside, they are still beaten up and thrown to the ground and that is the moment when a police officer sees them being filmed,” she said.
“These videos are essential because my client was originally arrested … for violence against public authorities,” said El Ali. “This is very serious. The reality is that if we did not have these videos, maybe my client would be in jail. ”
( Jowharwith AFP and AP)