The expression will remain one of those that marked the mandate of Emmanuel Macron. Yellow vests, social protests, Cédric Chouviat and Michel Zecler cases … Regularly, since the election of Emmanuel Macron in May 2017, violence has been committed by police officers during demonstrations or in isolated contexts. “Police violence”, then denounced a part of the political oppositions as well as numerous collectives and associations, while the government is much more cautious on the semantic level.
This debate goes beyond the simple semantic framework and has become a real subject of political confrontation. This Friday, in his interview with Brut, the President of the Republic finally indicated that he had “no problem repeating the term of police violence”. While indicating in the wake of wanting to “deconstruct” it because “it has become a slogan for people who have a political project”. A position which nevertheless marks a certain inflection in the speech at the top of the State. “I am shocked that the President of the Republic takes up this remark”, moreover criticized this Sunday on France 3 Xavier Bertrand, possible candidate of the right to the presidential election of 2022.
Ministers wind up in 2019
Honed by the police unions and several right-wing political leaders, this association of two words has long seemed totally taboo within the government and the executive. “I do not accept the expression ‘police violence'”, had asserted Christophe Castaner, at the time Minister of the Interior, in the Journal du dimanche on June 16, 2019. Three days earlier, the head of the General Inspectorate of the National Police (IGPN) Brigitte Julien had also “refuted”. “I am not talking about the term police violence”, for his part indicated the government spokesperson Gabriel Attal on RMC and BFMTV on January 15, 2019, while acknowledging the existence of “abuses which are unacceptable”.
VIDEO. A protester knocked to the ground by a policeman
If the various ministers and the authorities refuse to speak of “police violence”, it is because they do not want to give the impression of accrediting the existence of a kind of violent system established within the police. . “This semantic debate was especially mounted by the police unions who consider that this expression would suggest that any violence on the part of the police would be illegitimate while there is also a legitimate violence”, explains to the Parisian Mathieu Zagrodzki, researcher associated with the Center for Sociological Research on Law and Penal Institutions (Cesdip).
“Regardless of the truth itself, for political reasons the government, police leaders and police unions cannot (or think they can) admit the responsibility of the institution or that of all or part of its agents – except in exceptional cases ”, judge on his side linguist Michelle Lecolle.
“Obliged to be part of the police”
At the start of 2019, we are then in the midst of the yellow vests crisis, born at the end of 2018 due to the planned increase in fuel taxes. Every week, thousands of demonstrators march through several cities across the country and scenes of violence committed by police officers (as well as many others targeting them) are broadcast on social networks. “The executive was obliged to form a body with the police and he absolutely needed to have the troops on his side because he was facing a very hard social crisis” notes Mathieu Zagrodzki.
At that time, the expression “police violence” was even banned at the highest level of the state. During his presidential campaign in 2017, Emmanuel Macron nevertheless said on the Mediapart plateau that, “when there is police violence on the ground, we must give any clarification to this violence”. He seemed to take this expression back to his own account. But this March 7, 2019, during a meeting of the great national debate in Gréoux-les-Bains (Alpes-de-Haute-Provence), the Head of State exclaimed: “Do not speak of ‘repression’ or ‘police violence’, these words are unacceptable in a rule of law. “
The Michel Zecler affair
On July 27, at the National Assembly, the new Minister of the Interior Gérald Darmanin continues on the same line. “When I hear the word police violence, personally, I suffocate,” he indicates before the Law Commission, arousing indignation since he uses the verb “I am suffocating” used seven times by the delivery driver Cédric Chouviat before his death.
It was finally this fall that the tone began to change, in small steps. Several shocking videos, in particular those of the trifle of a police superintendent to a migrant then, above all, those of the beating of the producer Michel Zecler, brought back to the fore the burrs of the police. “To say that the Republic has a problem with police violence is not true, but every police violence is a problem for the Republic”, admitted the Minister of Justice Eric Dupond-Moretti on LCI on November 26.
The videos of the beatings given to Michel Zecler “are overwhelming images, with the police officers who completely lose control of the situation. The government can no longer hold the same discourse and say that these terms of ‘police violence’ are unacceptable, ”Judge Mathieu Zagrodzki. This specialist has “moreover always used” this expression, “without wanting to say that all the police are violent but to evoke illegitimate violence”.
If he therefore himself took it up in his mouth this Friday, Emmanuel Macron pointed out in the wake of the “violence in our society” for which there must be “zero tolerance on both sides”. “There are police officers who are violent” and “who must be punished”, he stressed, insisting on the fact that he did not want to put them all in the same basket. But for Mathieu Zagrodzki, refraining from speaking of “police violence”, “is to take people for less intelligent than they are”. “The average citizen is well aware that not all police officers are violent, racist or corrupt,” concludes the author of “What are the police doing? The role of the policeman in society ”(Aube editions).
Original article by : www.leparisien.fr