The All Too Candid Cameras

Arthur Goldhammer
27 November 2020

Pandering to the police, which was the purpose of the notorious Article 24 of the so-called Global Security Law (see my previous post), has backfired, putting Prime Minister Castex and President Macron in the awkward position of being obliged to denounce police violence even as they are attempting to pass a law that would cover it up by making it illegal to publish images of police caught in the act of beating citizens, such as the four who launched an unprovoked attack on music producer Michel Zecler. They are now suspended, but so is Article 24, which has been farmed out to an “independent commission” for a rewrite–a move which The Financial Times describes as a “humiliating climbdown” for Macron. But even a humiliating climbdown may not be enough to save the law, which is now being attacked by a Macroniste de la première heure, Richard Ferrand, the president of the National Assembly, as well as Gérard Larcher, the president of the Senate. The images of the police brutally evacuating a migrant camp followed by those of the attack on Zecler showed just what a travesty it would be to immunize the police against exposure of their excesses.

Gérald Darmanin’s position as interior minister has thus been rendered fragile by events. He won the job by ingratiating himself with elements of the police, who had felt insufficiently supported by his predecessor, Christophe Castaner. These representatives of the police lobbied Macron to award the job to Darmanin rather than to Jean-Michel Blanquer, his original choice. Their reward was Article 24, which is now in jeopardy on account of the very police misconduct it was intended to cover up.

The political fallout will no doubt be severe. Even Darmanin has been forced by the ugly images of a police rampage to denounce the perpetrators, whom he has accused of “sullying the uniform of the Republic.” Macron’s bid to shore up support on the right by buffing up his law-and-order image has left him vulnerable to attack on two fronts: by supporters who thought the Global Security Law was both ill-advised and unnecessary and who have been proven right by events, and by police-state advocates on the far right who are only too delighted to proclaim that the president doesn’t have what it takes to pummel disorder into submission. Once again, Macron emerges diminished from a battle he wouldn’t have needed to fight if he hadn’t felt compelled to portray himself as a fearless rough rider ready to take on all comers.

 

Photo Credit: ev, via Unsplash.

 

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1 Comment

  • bernard says:

    The videos of the criminal, racist assault by policemen from the 17th district of Paris on this innocent music producer has been viewed over the course of two days by more than 9 million people, which is likely unprecedented in France. By comparison, the latest president’s intervention on tv received some 29 million views.
    Each viewer has been able to note that a large number of policemen/policewomen witnessed the later stages of this assault and that not a single one of them tried in any way to stop the crime being committed. One is thus forced to issue a serious piece of advice to non white people: avoid the 17th district at all costs.
    Parisian old timers will not be surprised at all by this police violence. The slang for police 50 years ago was “cognes” or “bourres”, which depicted their favorite pastime. Neither will they be surprised by affirmations that this violence is not systemic. Every Minister of police has said so for 50 years. After thousands of incidents like this over the past 50 years we can safely state that to be minister of police in France is to be the hostage of police unions. In fact, the instant the previous minister of police had the misfortune of mixing in the same sentence the words police and racism he lost his job. His replacement, the present minister of police (they are called ministers of the interior in France), an unprincipled and opportunistic individual, himself under investigation for a sex offense, has cornered himself into a difficult position indeed: he must be very careful about abandoning policemen, any policemen, as the unions will have his hide if he does so, and at the same time must be very careful with these policemen who simply anticipate the adoption of the law he is pushing. Those who would think that I must be exaggerating the situation should watch carefully the videos of the incident (there are two): They stopped beating this poor man only after some ten minutes when they suddenly realized they were being filmed. Somehow the present minister of police, who thinks the world of himself, does not look that smart, actually.

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