After police are filmed beating a black man, France does a U-turn

AT 6.42PM ON November 21st, three policemen forced their way into a recording studio in a smart area of Paris and savagely beat up Michel Zecler, a black record producer. Pursued for not wearing a face mask, Mr Zecler initially spent 48 hours in detention for violence against the police, and says that during the beating he was called a “sale nègre (dirty negro)”. On November 30th, four days after a surveillance video of his beating was posted on social media, contradicting the officers’ account, preliminary charges were brought against the three, for intentional violence and the falsification of police records. All have been suspended.

The episode not only shocked France; President Emmanuel Macron said on social media that it “put us to shame”. It has also prompted an extraordinary U-turn by the government. For the beating took place as a controversial “general security” bill designed to reinforce police powers was going through parliament. Article 24 of the draft law, which was passed by the lower house on November 24th and will next go to the Senate, would forbid the posting or broadcasting of any image that identifies an individual officer during a police operation “with the manifest aim of physically or psychologically causing them harm”. Had the bill already been on the statute books, it might have made…

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