Proposal for a law on “comprehensive security”: nine cases involving law enforcement in which video played a key role

Will the proposed law on “global security” be synonymous with impunity for the police? The text, which must be debated from Tuesday, November 17 in the National Assembly, provides for punishing one year in prison and a fine of 45,000 euros for broadcasting “the image of the face or any other identifying element” a police officer or gendarme in intervention, with the aim of undermining his “physical or mental integrity”.

For journalists’ unions and several NGOs defending human rights, this vague definition could make it impossible to film live security forces in action. A particularly important fear, as the debate around police violence has met with strong echo since the death, at the end of May in the United States, of George Floyd.

It is wrong to say that we will no longer be able to film the police “, defends himself with AFP Patrice Ribeiro, secretary general of Synergie-Officiers. The new provisions will not prevent the police “to be identifiable administratively and judicially”, But “they will not be delivered to vindictiveness”, he said. “If you see a problem that falls under the Penal Code, you will have the right to film it and transmit it to the public prosecutor. (…) if you want to broadcast it on the internet in a wild way, you will have to blur the faces of police and gendarmes “, for his part indicated on Friday on franceinfo the Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin, while this last obligation does not appear, for the moment, in the text of the law. In a letter sent to the police unions, and published on his account Twitter, the minister even mentions “the prohibition of the exploitation of your image on social networks”, without mention of a will to attack the integrity on the part of the one who disseminates it.

In this context, Franceinfo has selected nine emblematic cases which testify to the importance of videos, shot by amateurs or journalists, in the launching and conclusion of legal proceedings in matters of police violence. Here they are, in chronological order.

1The arrest of Abdoulaye Fofana, who inspired the film “Les Misérables”

On the night of October 14, 2008, Abdoulaye Fofana, 20, received several blows from a baton and a pistol butt, while he was arrested for violence against police officers in the city of Bosquets, in Montfermeil (Seine-Saint-Denis), where he lives. The scene is filmed by a neighbor, director Ladj Ly, who will be inspired by the event to direct in 2019 Wretched.

The video, broadcast by Rue89 (article reserved for subscribers), is paid to the investigation opened by the public prosecutor’s office of Bobigny for “violence by depositary of public authority with weapon”, entrusted to the General Inspectorate of Services (ancestor of the General Inspectorate of the National Police, IGPN , the “font of fonts”). Two police officers were finally sentenced in 2011 to four months suspended prison sentence, and 3,600 euros in compensation and legal costs.

“It is entirely thanks to Ladj Ly that I am where I am, I am very grateful to him. Without video, I went to Fleury or Villepinte”, estimated in 2019 from the Parisian (article reserved for subscribers) Abdoulaye Fofana. This is the first case of police violence where video played a key role, also assures in Mediapart (article reserved for subscribers) his former lawyer, Yassine Bouzrou.

2The punch to a high school student on the sidelines of a blockade

On the sidelines of a blockade against the organized labor law in front of the Bergson high school, March 24, 2016 in Paris, a pofficer in civilian clothes is filmed by protesters assassinating a violent punch in the face of a teenager, held by another policeman, causing it to tip over and fall. The victim has a broken nose and is prescribed total incapacity for work for six days.

The video of the scene, which turns widely on social networks and in the media, reacts the Minister of the Interior, Bernard Cazeneuve, who says he is “shocked”. Before justice, the peacekeeper invokes a “unfortunate combination of circumstances” But was sentenced in November 2016 to an eight-month suspended prison sentence, without registration in the criminal record, which allows him to remain a police officer.

3The violence alleged against Alexandre Benalla

Alexandre Benalla, former deputy to the chief of staff of the Presidency of the Republic, and Vincent Crase, former employee of La République en Marche, have been indicted since July 22, 2018, in particular accused of molesting demonstrators, place de la Contrescarpe, in Paris, on May 1, 2018.

The images of the scene, filmed by Taha Bouhafs, activist since turned journalist, are at the origin of the resounding Benalla case, with multiple branches. The former collaborator of Emmanuel Macron is currently targeted by six separate legal proceedings. Regarding the violence of May 1st, theThe investigation ended in October, and justice must now determine whether or not to hold a trial.

If it had been in force at the time, the law on “global security” would not have protected Alexandre Benalla, who is not a police officer. But Taha Bouhafs, who films him, thought he was dealing with a policeman, as he explains to Mediapart: “I did not know that it was Benalla, a collaborator of Macron, but I wanted to alert on the violence of this undercover policeman. (…) If I had blurred, the Benalla affair would not exist not.”

4The beating of protesters in a Burger King

We are the third Saturday of mobilization of the “yellow vests”, theDecember 1, 2018, when aThirty demonstrators and a few journalists found refuge in a Burger King restaurant located near the Arc de Triomphe, in Paris, at the end of a day of mobilization marked by much violence.

A few minutes later, a dozen CRS enter and violently club several demonstrators, some lying on the ground. The scene is filmed by several journalists.

A preliminary investigation is entrusted to the IGPN, which recognizes violence “which did not seem justified”, but claims to fail to identify all of the officials involved. The case, entrusted to an investigating judge, finally gave rise in June 2020 to the indictment of four CRS, in particular for “willful violence by a person holding public authority”.

5The “yellow vest” Jérôme Rodrigues seriously injured in the eye

Jérôme Rodrigues, one of the figures of the “yellow vests” movement, was seriously injured in the eye during the eleventh day of mobilization, January 26, 2019, place de la Bastille, in Paris. The activist, who loses the use of his right eye, repeatedly claims to have been hit by a projectile fired by a defense ball launcher.

While the authorities contest the use of such a weapon, two videos shot by amateurs and broadcast on the program “Quotidien”, on TMC, and a subsequent report by a police officer from a security and intervention company, confirm the existence of a shooting at the time when Jerome Rodrigues is injured, but does not formally establish a link with the injury.

At the end of the preliminary investigation entrusted to the IGPN, the Paris prosecutor’s office opened in February 2019 a judicial investigation for “willful violence by a person holding public authority with a weapon”.

6Violence against two “yellow vests” in Paris

During the fifteenth day of mobilization of the “yellow vests”, on February 23, 2019 in Paris, members of the security and intervention company 75 questioned two demonstrators, identified as the perpetrators of violence against the police (which they dispute). During the stop, one of the police officers wears a kick in the face of a protester when he is already on the ground, then strikes a “soft stick of defense” in the face of the second, too framed by police officers.

Videos of the facts are broadcast on social networks and then reported by three Internet users, leading to the opening of an investigation by the IGPN. The 29-year-old policeman finally was sentenced, Thursday, November 12, to eight months suspended sentence. The two demonstrators were for their part sentenced in immediate appearance to 8 months suspended sentence for the violence committed before their arrest. An appeal trial is scheduled for March 2021.

7A policeman throws a paving stone during a demonstration

The scene takes place on May 1, 2019, in front of the Pitié-Salpêtrière hospital in Paris, during a day of action by the “yellow vests” marked by violent clashes in the capital. A CRS is filmed by a journalist seizing and then throwing a paving stone towards demonstrators, who are a few meters away, without the images showing where the projectile lands.

The 44-year-old policeman was sentenced in December 2019 to two months suspended sentence for “willful violence on the part of a person holding public authority”. This is the first conviction of a police officer for violence, since the beginning of the “yellow vests” movement.

8The death of Cédric Chouviat

Cédric Chouviat, 42-year-old delivery man, dies on January 5 2020 after heart failure that occurred two days earlier during a police check, in Paris. Three videos of the roadside check, filmed by the delivery man himself, a policewoman and a motorist, allow the scene to be reconstructed. They highlight in particular that Cédric Chouviat says seven times “I’m suffocating” before his discomfort. The police say they did not hear these words.

L‘one of the police officers practiced “rear throttle” on the delivery man shortly before his asphyxiation, and the crew put three minutes before giving cardiac massage to Cédric Chouviat, concludes theIGPN, in charge of the investigation, in June. Tpolice kings crew members are now indicted for “manslaughter”, and another is placed under the intermediate status of assisted witness.

9Racist insults during an arrest

On April 26, 2020, around 1:30 a.m., police officers arrested in Ile-Saint-Denis (Seine-Saint-Denis) a man suspected of theft of equipment on a construction site and who tried to flee by throwing himself in the Seine, according to what police sources cited by AFP report.

“A bicot clike that, it doesn’t swim “, we hear in a video posted on Twitter, visibly filmed after the officials took the man out of the river. Theracist expression refers to a North African Arab. “It’s leaking, you should have hung a ball on his foot”, answers another member of the police. As in the Benalla affair, these images are broadcast by the journalist from the site engaged, There if I am there, Taha Bouhafs. “This video was sent to me by a resident of Ile-Saint-Denis, who himself filmed the scene”, he specifies.

A police officer will appear before the Bobigny Criminal Court on March 4, 2021 for “racist insult”. The Paris police prefect had previously requested the suspension of the two police officers who admitted to being the authors of the comments.

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