Trigger Warning: Police Brutality, Racism, & Violence
On November 28th, protests erupted in France following the passing of the Global Security Bill in French parliament.
The bill as a whole would allow security forces to increase its surveillance of citizens through cameras and even drones without their consent. Under the name “Stop Loi Sécurité Global” journalists, human rights activists, and more have taken to the streets to demand the repeal of Articles 21, 22, and 24.
[bf_image id="pcf4cssh8v8b9fbpr75cb7sw"] Specifically, Article 24 would prohibit the publication and use of images featuring police officer’s faces. The concern with this proposal is that it would enable more police brutality during protests, worsening the already present issue of police violence and limiting free speech. There has already been clear evidence of excessive force by police during demonstrations as videos show officers beating, shoving, and confronting protestors often in violent ways. To the protestors, it is clear the French government isn’t recognizing the problem.
This issue has become increasingly relevant in France following two significant events concerning police brutality. Recently, a video was disclosed where Michel Zecler, a Black music producer, was severely beaten by police officers “behind closed doors until he bled, using tear gas and shouting racial slurs,” according to Bloomberg. Zecler claims it was racially motivated and investigations are currently being conducted against four officers. Bloomberg adds, “The officers tried to cover up their actions and may have been successful if it weren’t for the images, according to reports by French media.” This only further emphasizes the need for the filming of police officers as cases like these could disappear and go untried.
[bf_image id="842mjsh9hffhvkrg44ncmxjc"] Additionally, videos recently circulated the internet revealing police aggressively confronting protestors and refugees attempting to stop the displacement of a refugee camp in Paris.
According to the Guardian, “Officers were filmed tipping migrants out of tents, slamming riot shields into individuals, chasing people down streets and attacking refugees, journalists and others with truncheons and teargas.” Videos also show migrants being forced to leave the camp with no specified place to go. These accounts have been the motivation for many protests, including Zecler’s case.
[bf_image id="qek4je-5zaoow-dw8lf5"] Human rights organizations, anti-racism groups, and journalists all took a stand against France’s policing reforms arguing it would only worsen situations like the two mentioned above. The head of Amnesty International France, Cecile Coudriou said, "If people cannot film anything in the streets when the police may sometimes have an illegal use of force it's a very worrying message to send." Even experts from the United Nations asked France to revisit its proposed law exhibiting concern as they found it “incompatible with international human rights.”
While President Emanuel Macron announced the bill would be reworded, concerns are still present as to what that really means. Although he claimed in a recent statement that “the values of the Republic aren’t negotiable,” the original proposed bill sends a different message.
Amnesty International adds, “If the bill becomes law in its current form, France - one of the first countries in the world to proclaim the concept of universal human rights - will become an exception among democracies.”
[bf_image id="q5c931-bqrvw8-65mfgu"] Overall, this crisis should be of great concern to the international community. As more attention is focused on the issue of police brutality following the murder of George Floyd in the United States this past May, it’s important to not forget how these issues continue to infect democracies around the world.
Nations founded on the principles of human rights continue to test their limits just like France, and America is far from an exception. Considering Americans are currently battling human rights issues as well, the U.S. should stand with French protestors and emphasize the international emergency that is police brutality and systemic racism.