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November 25, 2021
French police officers suspended after a video emerges of them beating a Black man

French police officers suspended after a video emerges of them beating a Black man

French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said he personally ordered the suspensions after the security camera footage was published by the news website Loopsider.

The video from Saturday shows the man, identified by his lawyer as Michel Zecler, being beaten by the officers.

“These images are unspeakable, extremely shocking and as soon as I learned about them, and about what happened, I asked for the suspension of those police officers,” Darmanin said in a televised address Thursday night.

“As soon as the facts will be confirmed by justice, since it is looking into it, I will ask for the dismissal of those police officers,” he added.

Loopsider published an interview with an unnamed man with facial injuries which it said was the victim of the beating. “At that moment, I’m scared, I’m telling myself maybe today is my last day, here’s what I thought to myself, it’s my last day and I don’t know why,” he said in the video.

Reuters said the man told reporters he was walking near his studio without a face mask, a breach of French Covid-19 rules. He said he ducked into the studio when he saw the police officers to avoid a fine. The man said the officers then physically beat and racially abused him.

The Paris Police Prefecture said in a statement Thursday the French internal police investigation body was asked to investigate the incident and added it asked the general director of the National Police to suspend the police officers involved as a precaution. CNN was unable to immediately determine who was representing the suspended officers.

The incident comes amid protests against police brutality in France and just days after another video of police violence shocked the French public. That video was filmed Monday during an operation to dismantle a migrant camp in central Paris.

Darmanin tweeted then that “some images of the dismantling of the illegal migrants camp” were “shocking.” He said later that he had also asked the French internal police investigation body to look into the operation.

Claire Hédon, the French civil liberties ombudsman, announced Tuesday that she, too, would be looking into the police actions.

The Paris prosecutor’s office has told CNN that investigations into both the migrant camp incident and the beating have been opened.

Terror in France reignites a national debate on the right to offend

Two separate probes related to the camp dismantling were launched Tuesday — one related to acts allegedly committed against a migrant, and the other concerning acts of violence committed against a journalist, the prosecutor’s office said.

The latest incidents reignited a controversy over the Global Security Bill, passed by the French National Assembly on Tuesday. The widely criticized bill forbids the publication of images that allow the identification of a law enforcement officer “with the intent to cause them harm, physically or mentally.”

The restrictions — which still need to be passed by the Senate — prompted protests from civil liberties organizations and journalists. Christophe Deloire, the secretary-general of Reporters Without Borders, tweeted Thursday that he had met French Prime Minister Jean Castex to discuss the law, and announced the upcoming creation of an independent commission to rule on it.