The president of France, Emmanuel Macron, has called a video of French police officers beating up a Black man “shameful,” demanding proposals to rebuild trust between police and the country’s citizens.
Footage shows three officers beating Michel Zecler, a music producer, in an incident that has brought fresh attention to the issues of policing and race in France.
The officers identified have been suspended and were questioned in police custody on Friday. Macron was reportedly visibly upset by the video and summoned the interior minister, Gérald Darmanin, to the Elysée Palace, the French president’s official residence.
“The images we have all seen of the aggression against Michel Zecler are unacceptable, they are shameful for all of us. France should never allow violence or brutality, no matter who it comes from. France should never let hate or racism prosper,” Macron said in a statement on Facebook.
“Those whose job it is to apply the law should respect the law.”
Writing on Twitter, Macron demanded proposals for change, saying in part: “I will never accept that the gratuitous violence of some stains the professionalism of the men and women who work courageously to protect us in our daily lives.”
The police in question are also accused of lying about the incident and were reportedly unaware they were being filmed. In their statements, they claimed Zecler had attacked them and tried to grab one of their guns. Footage suggests this statement was false.
“These people were supposed to protect me,” Zecler told journalists. “I didn’t do anything to deserve that. 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.”
Darmanin said he will push for the officers to be dismissed. He told French television on Friday that they had “soiled the uniform of the republic,” but he also defended the police in more general terms.
“I want to say to the police and gendarmes [military police] that I support them,” Darmanin tweeted. “The immense majority of them do a remarkable job in difficult circumstances.”
Critics have accused Darmanin of pandering to supporters of far-right politician Marine Le Pen, a fact that may undermine confidence in his ability to deal with this incident. However, he called the beating of Zecler “unspeakable, shocking” and reports suggest Macron has “seen red” over the video.