Outcry grows in France after police filmed beating music producer

French music producer Michel addresses the media, alongside his lawyer Hafida El-Ali, at the offices of the police disciplinary body after he arrived to press charges, Paris, France, Nov. 26, 2020. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 27 November 2020

Outcry grows in France after police filmed beating music producer

  • Online news site Loopsider published security camera images showing three officers punching, kicking and using their truncheons on the producer, identified as Michel
  • The beating lasted around five minutes, during which Michel said he was repeatedly subjected to racist abuse, before he was dragged out of a building in Paris’ 17th district

PARIS: A video of police beating a black music producer in Paris triggered outrage and condemnation on Thursday, leading to the suspension of several officers and a public backlash that drew in French World Cup football stars.
The incident comes after a string of high-profile probes into police violence and as concern grows over new legislation proposed by the government that would restrict the right of citizens to film and publish images of police on duty.
Online news site Loopsider published security camera images on Thursday showing three officers punching, kicking and using their truncheons on the producer, identified as Michel, as he entered his studio in the French capital late on Saturday.
The beating lasted around five minutes, during which Michel said he was repeatedly subjected to racist abuse, before he was dragged out of the building in the northwestern 17th district of the capital.
He was initially arrested for violence and failure to obey the police. But prosecutors threw out the probe and instead opened an investigation against the police officers themselves for committing violence while in a position of authority.
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin told French television that the officers “had soiled the uniform of the republic” and that he would press for their dismissal.
Police sources said four officers had been suspended in total.
As the hashtag #Michel trended on French social media, politicians and footballers who played on France’s 2018 World Cup winning team denounced the latest evidence which comes amid a wider debate in France about police methods.
The death in US police custody of George Floyd in May has also reverberated in France where allegations of brutality against police officers are commonplace, particularly in poor and ethnically diverse areas in the country’s major cities.
“People who should have been protecting me attacked me. I did nothing to deserve this. I just want these three people to be punished because we have a good justice system in France,” Michel told journalists on Thursday.
“I was lucky to have videos which protect me, unlike a lot of others, otherwise I would not be here with you today,” he added.
Michel’s lawyer, Hafida El Ali, told AFP that his client had been detained for 48 hours after the beating on the basis of “lies by the police who had outrageously attacked him.”
Paris prosecutor Remy Heitz told AFP that he had asked France’s National Police General Inspectorate (IGPN) to shed light on what happened “as quickly as possible.”
Loopsider, which has exposed several episodes of police violence in recent months, said that the images “had to be seen to understand the full extent of the problem.”
Michel told the site he was in the street not wearing a face mask on Saturday, but went inside his studio when police arrived.
The beating took place in the hallway of the building, with the violence captured on CCTV.
Paris’ Socialist mayor Anne Hidalgo said she was “profoundly shocked” “by an intolerable act... that is exceptionally serious.”
Football stars on the 2018 squad such as Antoine Griezmann, Samuel Umtiti and Kylian Mbappe all denounced the images.
“Unbearable video, unacceptable violence,” Mbappe wrote on Twitter next to a picture of the injured producer. “Say no to racism.”
There has already been virulent criticism of the police this week after they used tear gas late Monday to remove migrants from a camp set up in central Paris.
Prosecutors have opened probes into that operation after videos showed a journalist being assaulted and an officer tripping a migrant as he runs away from the scene.
The beating of the producer has piled new pressure on Paris police chief Didier Lallement who has faced criticism over the dispersal of the migrant camp, as well as on hard-line Interior Minister Darmanin.
The outcry comes after the lower house of parliament on Tuesday evening gave initial approval to a security bill which would restrict the publication of photos or videos of police officers’ faces.
Media unions say it could give police a green light to prevent journalists from doing their work and potentially documenting abuses, as well as stopping social media users from posting incriminating footage.
A protest against the law has been called for Saturday in Paris.
In a sign that the government was possibly preparing to backtrack, Prime Minister Jean Castex announced late Thursday that he would appoint a commission to redraft Article 24 of the law that would restrict images of the police.
In a reminder of a previous police operation that caused outrage, three officers accused of severely injuring a man named Theodore Luhaka outside Paris in February 2017 are to face trial on charges of involuntary violence, prosecutors announced Thursday.
Luhaka was severely wounded in the area of his rectum by a blow from a truncheon. The judge has followed advice of prosecutors and the officers will not be tried for rape.
President Emmanuel Macron swept to power in 2017 as a centrist who rallied support from across the political spectrum. But with the new security law, critics and even some supporters accuse him of tilting to the right as he seeks re-election in 2022.


Iran deal architect among veterans named for Biden State Department

Updated 16 January 2021

Iran deal architect among veterans named for Biden State Department

WASHINGTON: The lead US negotiator of the Iran nuclear accord and a battle-tested hawk on Russia were named Saturday to top posts at President-elect Joe Biden’s State Department, signaling a return to normal after Donald Trump’s chaotic presidency.
Wendy Sherman, who brokered the Iran accord under Barack Obama and negotiated a nuclear deal with North Korea under Bill Clinton, was named as deputy secretary of state.
Victoria Nuland, a former career diplomat best known for her robust support for Ukrainian protesters in the ouster of a Russian-aligned president, was nominated under secretary for political affairs — the State Department’s third-ranking post in charge of day-to-day US diplomacy.
Biden said that the State Department nominees “have secured some of the most defining national security and diplomatic achievements in recent memory.”
“I am confident that they will use their diplomatic experience and skill to restore America’s global and moral leadership. America is back,” Biden said in a statement.
The State Department team will work under secretary of state-designate Antony Blinken, whose confirmation hearing will take place on Tuesday on the eve of Biden’s inauguration.
Blinken said that the State Department team, with women and ethnic minorities in prominent positions, “looks like America.”
“America at its best still has a greater capacity than any other country on earth to mobilize others to meet the challenges of our time,” Blinken said.
The optimism comes amid rising doubts about US leadership in Trump’s waning days after his supporters ransacked the Capitol on January 6 to try to stop the ceremonial certification of Biden’s victory.
Under outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a staunch defender of Trump, the United States has aggressively challenged Iran and China, robustly backed Israel and toyed with improving ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin, while also imposing sanctions on Moscow.
Sherman’s nomination marks another clear sign that Biden wants to return to the accord under which Iran drastically slashed its nuclear program in exchange for promises of sanctions relief.
Trump exited the deal in 2018 and imposed sweeping sanctions in what many observers saw as an unsuccessful attempt to topple the Shiite clerical regime.