Several police officers in the French capital city of Paris have been suspended and are under investigation after they were filmed brutally assaulting a Black man inside his music studio on November 21. Their suspension was ordered by French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, the Associated Press reported.
In an interview with the news outlet, the victim, a music producer identified as Michel Zecler, said he wants justice. Per footage of the incident, three officers reportedly followed Zecler into his studio and then went ahead to assault him, punching him several times and also hitting him with a truncheon. Besides the assault, Zecler also claimed the officers subjected him to racial abuse among other insults.
Zecler, who said he did not know why he was being assaulted and arrested, said he’s glad “the truth is out.” “I want to understand why I have been assaulted by people who were wearing a police uniform. I want justice actually because I believe in the justice of my country,” he added.
He sustained injuries on his head, legs and forearms. “He asked them what they wanted, if they wanted to check his identity. … They didn’t stop beating him, the video of the violence (inside the studio) lasts for 12 minutes,” his lawyer, Hafida El Ali, told the Associated Press.
During the incident, the officers also called for reinforcement after they stepped out of the studio, and then threw a teargas grenade back inside in an attempt to get the people inside to come out, his lawyer said, adding that the other nine people who were in the studio were also beaten.
“Outside they are still beaten up and thrown to the ground and that’s the moment when a police officer sees they are being filmed,” El Ali said. The officers reportedly stopped the assault when they realized they were being filmed.
The assault comes in the wake of an effort by the French government to push a bill that would make filming the police in certain instances illegal. Civil liberties groups and journalists are, however, protesting the bill, saying it’ll promote police brutality and allow officers who commit such atrocities to walk away free.
“These videos are essential because initially my client was being detained… for violence against people with public authority,” El Ali said. “This is very serious. The reality is that if we didn’t have these videos maybe my client would be in prison.”
In a tweet, Darmanin announced the incident is being investigated by the Inspectorate General of the National Police (IGPN), adding that he hopes disciplinary proceedings would be “conducted as soon as possible.”
“When people overstep the boundaries, they must give up the uniform of the Republic, they must be sanctioned and they must be punished by the justice system,” Darmanin said, according to Sky News.
Though Zecler was taken into custody, charges against him were eventually dropped by the Paris prosecutor’s office, the Associated Press reported. The office said they are now investigating the officers for “acts of violence by a person in position of public authority” as well as “false declaration.”
The officers, in their official report on the incident, stated they confronted Zecler because he wasn’t wearing a mandatory mask while outside. The city issued the mask mandate as a means to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The officers also claimed Zecler appeared “nervous”, had a “strong drug smell” and acted “dangerous,” French newspaper Le Parisien reported.
“My client never committed any violence against the police… He did not even defend himself,” El Ali said.
This incident is the second video footage to emerge of Paris police officers involved in alleged acts of violence against civilians during the course of the week. On Tuesday, authorities ordered investigations after officers were filmed aggressively moving migrants out of their tents during an evacuation at a protest camp. A migrant was also filmed being deliberately tripped.