French police officers suspended after assaulting black man with truncheon and tear gas

  • Footage of police officers assaulting Michel Zecler

A group of French police officers have been suspended after footage surfaced of them beating up a black man.

On Thursday, French news website Loopsider released a video showing officers violently arresting music producer, Michel Zecler. They were shown repeatedly punching him, as well as using a truncheon and tear gas against him for no apparent reason.

The incident happened in Paris' 17th district on Saturday. Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin has ordered the officers involved in the case to be suspended.

It comes as President Emmanuel Macron’s government pushes a new bill that restricts the ability to film police. The move has prompted protests from civil liberties groups and journalists concerned that it would allow police brutality to go undiscovered and unpunished.

Video footage obtained by the Associated Press, both from a security camera inside the studio and filmed by neighbours outside, show three officers following Zecler inside his music studio, where they can be seen repeatedly punching him and beating him with a truncheon.

Security cameras inside Zecler's studio captured the incident. Credit: AP

Zecler, who suffered injuries to his head, forearms and legs, said he is glad that "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 said.

Zecler said that the officers hurled repeated insults at him, including a racist slur. He added that he still does not understand why officers decided to arrest him.

According to Le Parisien newspaper, based on the written record of the officers’ declarations the day after the arrest, Zecler drew their attention because he was not wearing a mask — which is mandatory for those outdoors in Paris.

Zecler’s lawyer Hafida El Ali said: “My client never committed any violence against the police... He did not even defend himself.”

Michel Zecler's lawyer, Hanifa El Ali Credit: AP

“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.”

At some point, the officers called in reinforcements and left. They then threw a tear gas grenade into the studio to get those inside to come out, El Ali said.

She added that nine others who were recording music in the studio basement were also beaten.

“I’m obviously scandalised by these images,” Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti said in a television interview.

Darmanin tweeted that the body that investigates allegations of police misconduct, the Inspectorate General of the National Police (IGPN) is looking into the case, saying, “I want disciplinary proceedings as soon as possible.”

The Paris police prefecture said in a statement that IGPN will seek to establish the exact circumstances surrounding the Zecler's arrest.

The Paris prosecutor’s office is also investigating the police actions. The prosecutor’s office said Thursday it has dropped the proceedings against Zecler opened the day of his arrest, and instead opened an investigation for “acts of violence by a person in position of public authority” and “false declaration”.