An ongoing stream of shocking social media videos that showed excessive use of force by police against minorities and migrants has shaken France this week, while French President Emmanuel Macron's government is still pushing a new controversial bill that would restrict the ability to film police.
On Thursday, images purporting to show a black music producer being beaten up and racially abused by French police has sparked renewed outrage as accusations of brutality and racism against French police remain largely unaddressed in the country.
French authorities are investigating allegations that the music producer, who has given his identity as Michel, was assaulted and racially abused during a police check after CCTV footage of the incident was released. The beating inside the entrance of a building was captured on closed-circuit television and mobile phone footage, which circulated online and was headline news on French TV channels.
The alleged attack on Michel risks inflaming racial tension with allegations of repeated police brutality against black and ethnic communities at the forefront of many people's minds after the death of black American George Floyd in Minneapolis in May sparked the Black Lives Matter movement.
The question of police violence in France has become mainstream since the yellow vest protests. On Monday, French police were filmed tossing migrants out of tents while evacuating a makeshift camp in the French capital, leading to accusations of excessive force. Police used tear gas to remove migrants from a camp set up in central Paris. Prosecutors have opened probes into the use of violence against both a journalist and a migrant in that incident. On Tuesday night, protesters took to the streets to show support for asylum-seekers and to denounce police violence and an unwelcoming policy toward migrants in France.
The same night, the lower house of Parliament Tuesday evening gave initial approval to a security bill that would restrict the publication of photos or videos of police officers' faces, although it still faces further legislative hurdles. Media unions said it could give police a green light to prevent journalists from doing their work and potentially documenting abuses. The bill sparked multiple protests in Paris and other major cities throughout France, with more protests planned. In response to protests and complaints from free expression advocates, the prime minister's office said Thursday it would set up an independent commission tasked with proposing a new version of the legislation.
The French government has been under growing pressure to address long-running accusations of excessive violence by police, particularly against minorities. Some Black Lives Matter protests broke out in Paris in June, a month following the death of Floyd after a white police officer knelt on his neck in the street for nearly nine minutes in the course of arresting him. The outrage generated by Floyd's death has resonated in France, in particular in deprived city suburbs where police often clash with youth from ethnic minority backgrounds. The protests in Paris in June focused on unsolved cases of people dying during police operations, such as Adama Traore, who died in police detention near Paris in 2016. Young people in French working-class suburbs with a large immigrant population have long complained of police violence, with an upsurge in complaints during the first coronavirus lockdown earlier this year. Racist comments allegedly made by police officers in a Facebook group also sparked outrage.