Thousands protest against anti-immigrant riots in S. Africa

Updated 23 April 2015

Thousands protest against anti-immigrant riots in S. Africa

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa: Several thousand demonstrators marched through central Johannesburg on Thursday to protest against a spate of deadly attacks on immigrants, after further raids by the authorities on suspected gang hideouts.
Watched by police, crowds sang songs denouncing xenophobia and carried banners that read “We are all Africans” as migrant workers crowded balconies, shouting their support.
“This march sends an important message to the world, to Africans,” David Makhura, premier of Gauteng province, of which Johannesburg is the capital, told the demonstrators.
“We are going to defeat xenophobia like we defeated apartheid.
“We are here to make sure that South Africa is a country of peace for all.”
Soldiers were deployed in Johannesburg this week to aid police in raids on hostels housing South African men who are accused of targeting migrants from Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique and other African countries.
At least seven people have been killed in three weeks of unrest that have revived memories of xenophobic bloodshed in 2008, when 62 people were killed.
“I am here to make a stand, to say ‘Not in my name’,” Zain Mayet, 20, one of the marchers, told AFP.
“Keeping quiet makes me as guilty as those who are committing violence.
“We are here to demonstrate that not everyone in South Africa is a criminal who attacks foreign nationals.”
UN chief Ban Ki-moon condemned the violence and called for “all efforts” to be made to avoid future attacks.
“He welcomes the public expressions of the many South Africans who have been calling for peaceful coexistence and harmony with foreign nationals,” Ban’s spokesman said in a statement.

Two people were arrested late Wednesday when police, backed by soldiers, stormed a workers’ hostel in the city’s crowded Alexandra township.
In total, over 300 people have been detained.
The unrest erupted in the port city of Durban about three weeks ago and later spread to Johannesburg, the economic capital.
Many immigrants have been forced to flee their homes and abandon their small shops as marauding mobs hunted down foreigners at night.
“Over 5,000 people from Malawi, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi still seek refuge in displacement camps,” Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF — Doctors Without Borders) said in a statement.
“Injured Malawian and Zimbabwean men told medics that they are too afraid to openly seek medical treatment for their wounds and fractures for fear of further attack.”
More than 20 years since the end of apartheid, many South Africans believe the lack of opportunities for young blacks and a severe jobs shortage has led to deep frustration.
One Mozambican man was stabbed to death in Alexandra township last Saturday in scenes that provoked widespread outrage after the killing was captured in graphic newspaper photographs.
Alexandra, where Nelson Mandela lived as a young man, is one of the most troubled parts of Johannesburg and is located next to the upmarket business district of Sandton.
President Jacob Zuma has pledged to tackle anti-migrant sentiment in South Africa and to address deep-rooted problems behind the attacks.
“South Africans are not xenophobic,” he said Wednesday. “If we don’t deal with the underlying issues, it will come back.”
Zuma gave few details of government plans, but said the violence was driven by “criminal elements” as well as friction between foreigners and locals.
The president will hold meetings on Friday with leaders representing South Africa’s immigrant communities.
Regional relations have been strained by the attacks, with Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mozambique organizing for some worried citizens to return home.
Neighbouring Mozambique said more than 2,000 citizens had fled the violence.
Five buses also arrived back in Zimbabwe on Wednesday.


French officers detained after fury over beating video

Updated 27 November 2020

French officers detained after fury over beating video

  • Images published by the Loopsider website show how music producer Michel Zecler was repeatedly beaten by police
  • Celebrities including football World Cup winners Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann condemned the beating

PARIS: French authorities on Friday detained four officers suspected of beating and racially abusing a black music producer in Paris in a case that has shocked President Emmanuel Macron and drawn outrage from celebrities and sports stars.
Images published by the Loopsider website show how music producer Michel Zecler was repeatedly beaten by police for several minutes and subjected to racial abuse as he tried to enter his music studio Saturday evening.
Celebrities including football World Cup winners Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann condemned the beating, while French star singer Aya Nakamura said she wished the producer strength, adding “thank you to those who filmed.”
A presidential official said Friday that Macron, too, was “very shocked” by the images.
The incident raised questions over the future of Paris police chief Didier Lallement, already in the spotlight after the controversial forced removal of a migrant camp in Paris earlier in the week.
It also put the government on the backfoot as it tries to push through new security legislation that would restrict the right of the media to publish the faces of police agents.
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, who is in charge of the police forces, told French television that the officers tarnished the reputation of France’s security forces.
The four officers, all men, were detained for questioning on Friday, a source close to the case told AFP.
The officers, who had already been suspended from duty, were being held at the National Police Inspectorate General (IGPN), and prosecutors opened an investigation into violence by a person in authority and false testimony, the source said.
Three of the four were being questioned on suspicion of “violence with a racist motive” committed intentionally in a group, prosecutors said. The fourth is being questioned on suspicion of using violence but is not accused of racism.
Zecler was initially himself detained for causing violence, but prosecutors threw out that probe and began investigating the officers instead.
Macron on Thursday held talks with Darmanin to call for tough punishments for those involved in the beating, a government source added.
“Nausea,” said the front page headline in the leftist Liberation daily over a close-up picture of Zecler’s swollen and bloodied face.
“The new video of a rare ferocity... adds to a problem fed over the last months by a succession of blunders and a tendency to revert to authoritarian tendencies,” it said.
The death in US police custody of George Floyd in May and the Black Lives Matter movement have reverberated in France where allegations of brutality against police officers are commonplace, particularly in poor and ethnically diverse urban areas.
“French police has a structural problem with violence, violence that is committed against visible minorities,” Fabien Jobard, a sociologist, told AFP.
“Unbearable video, unacceptable violence,” Mbappe wrote on Twitter next to a picture of the injured producer. “Say no to racism.”
The outcry comes after the lower house of parliament on Tuesday evening approved 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 potentially documenting abuses, as well as stopping social media users from posting incriminating footage.
A protest against the draft law, which has yet to pass a Senate vote, has been called for Saturday in Paris.
In a sign that the government could be 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 the publication of images of the police.
But this in turn sparked accusations that the prime minister was trying to bypass the legislature.
“It is not for the government to substitute the work of an external committee in the place of parliamentary prerogatives,” the speaker of the lower house Richard Ferrand told Castex, his office said.
Macron swept to power in 2017 as a centrist who rallied support from across the political spectrum. But critics and even some supporters accuse him of tilting to the right as he seeks re-election in 2022.
“Already accused of attacking public freedoms through the security bill... the executive faces an accumulation of cases of violence and police abuse, the images of which have disturbed even the ruling party,” said Le Monde daily.