PARIS: On Monday, four French policemen officers were charged with beating and racially assaulting a maker of black music, while President Emmanuel Macron struggled to contain the political fallout of an outrageous French case.
The assault on Michel Zecler, which was filmed on tape, has become a new rallying cause for policemen activists who suspect institutionalised bias and violence of being a power.
It has also raised pressure on the government to cancel or amend a bill that, following mass protests on the weekend that left thousands wounded, would ban policemen filming.
Lawmakers from the party of President Emma-nuel Macron said on Monday that a “complete rewrite” of part of the draught law will be proposed.
Christophe Castaner, Macron’s governing LREM party’s legislative leader, disputed that it marked the president’s climbdown.
“He said the rewrite was intended to balance the need to protect the policemen with the universal right to information freedom.
The announcement came after Mac-ron met with cabinet ministers and legislative representatives for a crisis meeting.
The purpose of the meeting was to come up with “suggestions to restore trust” between the policemen and the public, according to government sources.
Castaner noted the “deepening incomprehension” of the proposed bill, which seeks to curb the freedom to post photographs of on-duty officers by the press and social media users.
Later on Monday, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin was to answer questions about the legislation from a parliamentary committee.
Pierre Guy, a member of the parliamentary committee, said earlier that “a rewrite of the article or the creation of another committee will not put an end to the mistrust felt by a part of the population.” “Therefore, he told Le Parisien newspaper, “I am in favour of repealing Article 24.
Human rights groups argue that if Article 24 had not been in place, the photos of the beating, first released by the Loopsider news channel, may never have been made public.
The bill would criminalise the release of policemen photos in order to harm their “physical or psychological integrity.” This month, it was approved by the National Assembly of the lower house, but the Senate also needs ratification.
Early on Monday, a Paris prosecuting magistrate charged the four officers concerned with assault by a citizen who holds public authority. Three have since been charged with fabricating their incident complaint.
Two of the accused would hold behavioural bars, but on conditional parole, the remaining two were released, a court source said.
Paris lawyer Remy Heitz on Sunday called for three of the officers to be charged with racist discrimination as well.
He said the officers admitted that their use of force was unjustified, but said they behaved in “fear and panic,” and denied any racial violence.
Zecler was stopped for failure to wear a mask. He smelled strongly of weed, the policemen have said, but only a small quantity of the drug was later discovered in a bag, the prosecutor said.
Critics say Macron, who came to power in 2017 as a centrist pledging a revolutionary overhaul of France, is further proof of a slide to the right in the latest security legislation. On Friday, Macron said that the photos of Zecler beating “shame us.”
In the left-leaning Liberation newspaper, the president “is caught in a trap,” the headline said.
In Paris, the riots saw a brasserie set alight, vehicles torched and stones hurled at security forces, who responded with tear gas and anti-riot tactics.
A prize-winning Syrian photojournalist, Ameer al-Halbi, 24, was among those wounded, seen with a swollen face and half of his head wrapped with bandages in pictures.
Al-Halbi is an amateur photographer who has worked for AFP and Polka Magazine.
Phil Chetwynd, AFP’s global news chief, said We are shocked by the injuries suffered by our colleague Ameer al-Halbi and condemn the unprovoked violence.”