The All Too Candid Cameras
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.