Four police officers in France are under investigation following the release of a video that appears to show a Black music producer being beaten at his Paris studio.
In the CCTV footage, three officers are seen entering Michel Zecler’s studio before proceeding to punch, kick and strike him for roughly five minutes.
Zecler alleges that during the incident, which took place on November 21, police repeatedly uttered racial slurs. The CCTV footage didn’t capture audio recordings, and police deny the claims.
The original video went viral after it was posted to Twitter on Thursday (November 26), and has been seen more than 14.3 million times since.
You can see the footage below:
Ça s'est passé samedi à Paris. 15 minutes de coups et d'insultes racistes.
La folle scène de violences policières que nous révélons est tout simplement inouie et édifiante.
Il faut la regarder jusqu'au bout pour mesurer toute l'ampleur du problème. pic.twitter.com/vV00dOtmsg
— Loopsider (@Loopsidernews) November 26, 2020
Speaking to Loopsider, Zecler shared his side of the story, talking the reporter through the footage. “Right then, I was scared. I didn’t understand what was going on. There were people outside walking past and I tried to get their attention,” he explained.
“Given how violent it was, and all the punches I was taking, I said to myself, ‘If I fall, I’m going to stay there and I won’t be able to get back up,” he continued. “I didn’t want to make any sudden movements that could be used against me. I was completely conscious of this. The whole time.”
Another video, captured by an upstairs neighbour, shows a street view of police removing Zecler from the studio. In the footage, a teargas canister appears to be thrown to dispel a group of artists who had been recording in the basement.
This video, which is accompanied by audio, shows officers pushing Zecler to the ground and another officer punching him, while he can be heard screaming out in pain.
C’est une nouvelle pièce que nous apportons au dossier de l’agression de Michel Zecler.
Cette vidéo d’un voisin montre sous un autre angle l’agression et sa violence inouïe.
« Ils auraient pu le tuer. » pic.twitter.com/G60NtRNnC9
— Loopsider (@Loopsidernews) November 27, 2020
The witness who captured the footage told Loopsider: “The cop had hit him so hard that he was in pain. After, he was complaining that his hand hurt.”
The incident began when Zecler went outside without his mask, which is currently obligatory in France due to coronavirus restrictions.
Police said they also pursued the producer because they could smell cannabis coming from his bag. During a press conference on Sunday (November 29), Paris public prosecutor Rémy Heitz said police found 0.5g of cannabis in his bag.
In a report issued by the officers, which was filed before they knew of the existence of CCTV footage, they claimed that Zecler hit them.
Three of the officers have been mis en examen – the nearest thing to being formally charged in France – with “deliberate violence by a person in public authority, in a group and with an arm”, and with “falsifying statements”. The fourth officer, who fired the teargas canister, has been accused of “deliberate violence”.
At Sunday’s press conference, Heitz said they had “panicked” but admitted “their blows were not justified and they had mainly acted out of fear”.
The video of Zecler’s also reached President Emmanuel Macron, who called the assault “unacceptable” and “shameful” and said that “France must never resolve to violence or brutality, wherever they come from. France must never allow hatred or racism to flourish.”