Details continue to emerge in the case of the black music producer beaten up by police officers, as public outcry regarding a controversial new clause of the national security law also intensifies.
There were a number of massive demonstrations in France over the weekend, with the media relaying the images of recent police interventions. Officers arguing in their own defence say that they have been exposed to too many threats and atrocities of late.
Speaking to the BFMTV news channel, two officers gave a detailed account of the hatred, as well as the verbal and physical abuse they face each day. They find it extremely difficult to cope with the hatred, they said, pointing out that people were generally happy with police about a month ago, at the time of the terrorist attacks. Now, however, many demonstrators were heard chanting slogans like "police officers should all kill themselves."
Footage shows an officer lying on the ground as he is being beaten by protesters. One of the officers told the TV station that the protesters were armed with Molotov cocktails and cobblestones, along with other items that could cause serious, even fatal injuries. The video recorded towards the end of the demonstration shows protesters hurling an explosive device at police, which went off near the feet of an officer. Some of the protesters have joined the rally with the explicit intention of causing harm and injuries to policemen in action, the two law enforcement officers said.
"C'est compliqué à gérer"— BFMTV (@BFMTV) November 30, 2020
Deux policiers témoignent du "sentiment de haine" ressenti sur le terrain pic.twitter.com/v1jmldNt4M
France's proposed national security bill on taking and publishing images of police officers in action has triggered a general outcry. Essentially, the draft legislation says that civilians and journalists are allowed to photograph or film police officers in action, but posting these clips and images online if the officers can be recognised and identified with their help is strictly forbidden. Some argue that officers should be recognisable so that they could be prosecuted for possible abuse or brutality while carrying out arrests. Others say they should not be identifiable, because if they are, the images could put not only them, but also their families at risk.
The French government appears to have caved in to massive social pressure. Former interior minister Christophe Castaner, the head of Macron's La Republique En Marche! (LREM) party, announced in the national assembly that they will sumbit a proposal to reformulate the much-disputed Article 24 of the controversial national security law. Article 24 regulates the possibe sanctions against those who publish such photos or videos online that make an officer on duty clearly identifiable.
As to the proposal, its goal is still the same: to protect the officers and their families without compromising people's fundamental freedoms, the former interior minister tweeted. As doubts regarding Article 24 emerged, the ruling party will propose to rewrite the contentious legislation.
#PPLSécuritéGlobale— Christophe Castaner (@CCastaner) November 30, 2020
Notre objectif reste inchangé : protéger les forces de l'ordre et leur famille sans jamais mettre en cause nos libertés fondamentales.
Sur l'article 24, il reste des inquiétudes que nous devons dissiper. La majorité en proposera donc une nouvelle écriture.
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin is also experiencing some difficult days. Edwy Plenel, an employee of the investigative Mediapart portal who gave an interview to BFMTV, says Darmanin should resign with immediate effect because he clearly lied about the beating of black music producer Michel Zecler - caught on camera -, which provoked public outrage. The interior minister spoke about the video to MPs in the lower house of the parliament, saying that he, the prefect and the national police chief were unaware of the recording of Zecler's abuse until it was published on the Loopsider portal on Thursday.
Ça s'est passé samedi à Paris. 15 minutes de coups et d'insultes racistes.— Loopsider (@Loopsidernews) November 26, 2020
La folle scène de violences policières que nous révélons est tout simplement inouie et édifiante.
Il faut la regarder jusqu'au bout pour mesurer toute l'ampleur du problème. pic.twitter.com/vV00dOtmsg
This, however, isn't true, as the defence attorney of the assaulted music producer had played the video at the prosecutor's office days before, on Monday, where proceedings were subsequently initiated against the police officers involved in the beating.
According to the journalist covering the case, Gerald Darmanin knew about the clip days before Loopsider published it, yet he decided not to suspend anyone.
Jean-Luc Mélenchon, chairman of the La France Insoumise (Unbowed France) party, also weighed in on the issue. In an interview with the liberal daily L'Opinion, the politician talked about making military service mandatory again to combat police violence and racism. The compulsory enrollment of French youth was abolished in 1996 by former President Jacques Chirac. However, Melenchon believes that people should be protected with arms, and that France should relinquish its NATO membership, because - firstly - it's an uncertain alliance, and - secondly - it has members who are potential opponents or enemies and represent views in which the left must not be able to reach a consensus.