As we draw closer to the end of this year, we often find ourselves reflecting on the year we have had, and how the COVID 19 pandemic has altered our lives. However, we overlook several events on a global scale that changed the socio-economic fabric of our societies. One such event was the Black Lives Matter Movement, which developed as a result of police brutality aimed towards people of color. The most recent country to have faced the effects of such brutality aimed at one particular section of society is the French Republic. The country had experienced two significant events in the past months, that have significantly affected the law and order situation of the country within two weeks. Paris last week lit up in flames as tensions between the protestors and the police escalated. Rallies organized by the citizens along with members of the Yellow vests, a populist, grass-roots movement, were disrupted by scores of protestors dressed in complete black, who launched projectiles at riot police. Tensions reached a new high after the protests started damaging public property, which included, breaking of windows of supermarkets and bank branches and setting ablaze several cars. In response to these acts, the police retaliated with tear gas and periodic charges against the crowd.
The previous weekend’s protests were the second time the French public took to the streets in the last month. There has been a sudden call for action amongst the citizenry, mainly due to two reasons. The first being the unwarranted beating of Micheal Zecler, who by profession is a music composer. Zecler was kicked and punched for several minutes by three officers at his studio in Paris on the 21st of November. Over and above the ‘intentional violence’ charge, all four officers have been accused of forgery. A charge that is related to the police report filed after the incident, which stated that police officers acted in the following manner after they smelled cannabis and the fact that Mr. Zecler had resisted being searched. According to the prosecutor, the police officers involved agreed that they had acted out of panic, after Micheal Zecler, resisted them in the cramped surroundings of his office. The incident immediately caught the public’s attention. President Emmanuel Macron himself described the incident as “unacceptable” and “shameful”, demanding quick government proposals on how to rebuild trust between police and citizens.
In terms of the broader topic of contention between the authorities and the general public, we see a great amount of dissatisfaction resulting from the Micheal Zecler case, however, this dissatisfaction soon turned into frustration, which in turn led to a call for action after the French parliament tabled a security bill. Article 24 of which makes it a criminal offence to publish images of on-duty police officers with the intent to harm their “physical and psychological integrity”. Advocates of the proposed bill say that the legislation aims at protecting police officers from harassment and targeting on social media. On the other hand, a majority of the French population believes that media freedom and the citizens’ right to film police action must not be impeded, as the French police are under intense scrutiny and have received severe backlash, after the Zecler case.
In response to the recent protests and strong criticism, the government has received. Macron’s ruling party said that they plan to rewrite the article that curbs rights to circulate images of police officers. President Emmanuel Macron himself has acknowledged the fact that people of color are more likely to be stopped by police for ID checks than white. To deal with this problem he proposed setting up a platform for citizens to log unwarranted searches. The President’s recent remarks have, however, not settled well with the police unions, who have strictly denied the statement by the President. What remains to be seen is if the steps proposed by the ruling party and the President will be enough to pacific the people, so at the draw to a close the string of protests around the country, and more importantly to see if the steps will be enough from a substantive point of view.
Featured Image By: United World