Four Parisian police officers have been charged in the beating of a Black music producer earlier this month, after video of the cops beating him in the doorway of his recording studio went viral.
The inciting incident appeared to be Zecler standing outside the studio without a face covering, which is illegal under France’s coronavirus restrictions. The four officers chased 41-year-old Michel Zecler into his studio, grabbing him and beating him with batons until the commotion caused several people recording inside to come to his aid. Police arrested Zecler and nine others, but all were quickly released once surveillance footage showed the gross overreaction of police.
According to the New York Times, the officers have been charged with assault, and some of them are being charged with using racial slurs. A government official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that the four men were also charged with forgery, due to their false portrayal of events in police reports. Their initial reports claimed Zecler forcefully resisted them and grabbed at their weapons, something shown to be false by the video.
Zecler expressed shock while speaking with French reporters.
“The people who are supposed to protect me are holding me at gunpoint,” he said. “I would like that it never happen again, for anyone. Camera or no camera.”
The furor over the incident of police brutality caused French President Emanuel Macron to speak out. In a post on Facebook, the leader called the incident “unacceptable.”
“They shame us. France must never resolve to violence or brutality,” he said. “France must never allow hatred or racism to flourish.”
His words run counter to the actions of his own party. Macron is pushing for a bill that would make it more difficult to share footage of police. The proposed bill would make it illegal to publish images of police officers that might bring harm to the officers. The bill carries a proposed punishment of up to a year in jail and a $53,000 fine. Activists and members of the press worry that the bill would make it difficult to push back against instances of police misconduct. Protests against the bill have broken out throughout the country, with tens of thousands of Parisians marching against the measure over the weekend.
Zecler’s lawyer Hafida El Ali pointed out that without the widely shared footage, Zecler would still be in jail.
“If we didn’t have that, unfortunately, he would obviously be detained,”she said, per the Times. “Because it’s his word against the word of the police officers, and we know perfectly well that it’s the police officers that would win.”