French President Emmanuel Macron has held internal conversations with his interior minister and demanded "firm punishment" against the officers who attacked a Black music producer in Paris on Saturday.
According to The Guardian, a witness said Macron was shocked when he saw a video of four officers attacking Michel Zecler in his studio. The source also said the president had "seen red" after viewing the footage on social media, Europe 1 reported.
“The president was very shocked and immediately called his interior minister,” the witness told Europe 1.
The 13-minute video, published by Loopsider, shows the officers beating Zecler as he enters his studio, allegedly attacking him for not wearing a mask, according to BBC News.
DOCUMENT: la séquence intégrale des 13 minutes de l'agression policière contre un producteur de musique parisien. Attention: images difficiles de violences et d'insultes racistes. pic.twitter.com/37EbfgID2T
— Loopsider (@Loopsidernews) November 26, 2020
The officers allegedly lied before realizing they were caught on camera, saying the artist had attacked them and tried to grab one of their guns.
The four officers, who were taken into police custody simply for questioning, are now suspended as the investigation continues. Three of the officers are facing charges of “deliberate violence in a group with weapons and of a racist nature.” Another policeman is also facing the same charge as well as “deliberate damage using dangerous means.”
Macron has asked the interior minister, Gérald Darmanin, to make sure "very clear sanctions" are taken against the police officers, Europe 1 reported.
Darmanin said the images of the attack against Zecler were “unspeakable, shocking.” But the interior minister didn't confirm that the officers will be held accountable.
“If the investigation concludes there was a fault, I will ask for the dismissal of the … police officers,” the interior minister said in a TV interview.
Darmanin has also expressed support for the police.
“I want to say to the police and gendarmes that I support them… The immense majority of them do a remarkable job in difficult circumstances,” he tweeted.
Macron didn't discuss the incident in public for nearly a week but he broke his silence on Twitter on Friday.
"The images we have all seen of Michel Zecler's assault are unacceptable," the president said. "They shame us. France must never resolve to violence or brutality, wherever they come from. France must never allow hatred or racism to flourish."
Les images que nous avons tous vues de l’agression de Michel Zecler sont inacceptables. Elles nous font honte. La France ne doit jamais se résoudre à la violence ou la brutalité, d’où qu’elles viennent. La France ne doit jamais laisser prospérer la haine ou le racisme.
— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) November 27, 2020
Zecler’s lawyer, Hafida El Ali, said it's disappointing that the officers are not currently in custody, but her client was held responsible because police lied.
“My client spent a completely unjustifiable 48 hours in police custody,” El Ali said. “If we didn’t have the videos, my client might be in prison right now.”
The 41-year-old musician said he didn't do anything to deserve the attack.
“These people were supposed to protect me," he told reporters. "I want these people punished by the law. Of course, I was afraid. It’s lucky I have the videos to protect me. This shouldn’t happen.”
French soccer star Kylian Mbappé is one of several celebrities who has shown support for Zecler.
"Unbearable video, unacceptable violence. Say no to racism," he wrote on Twitter, posting a picture of the bloodied music producer.
— Kylian Mbappé (@KMbappe) November 26, 2020
According to BBC News, the French government is in the process of passing a controversial bill that imposes restrictions on posting images of police or soldiers on social media intended to target them as individuals. The New York Times reports that anyone who records officers' "face or any other identifying element" while they are acting in their role with the goal to "physically or mentally harm" them will face a year in prison or a fine of about $54,000.
Although critics say the bill will make it difficult to hold law enforcement accountable, the government says the law doesn't violate the rights of the media and citizens to report police abuse.