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Protesters Across France Demonstrate Against Security Bill

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

To France now, where the government just announced it will revise a controversial bill that would've made it illegal to film the faces of police. Tens of thousands of demonstrators marched across the country this weekend after video of a brutal assault by police of a Black man was made public. They say allowing video is exactly what's needed to stop abuse like that. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley reports.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: Thousands of people gathered in Paris' Place de la Republique to protest a law that would criminalize the publication of images of on-duty police officers with the intent of harming their physical or psychological integrity. Offenders could be sentenced by up to a year in jail and a $53,000 fine.

Until now, the law's major opponents have been the nation's media and human rights groups, but the video pushed thousands of regular people to come out, like Nicolas Vercken, who brought his two young daughters.

NICOLAS VERCKEN: But this happens, like, every day, every week, and there is not a video to testify about that. So, yeah, angry that we need to have a video for justice and truth to be out in the open.

BEARDSLEY: The soundless video was taken by a CCTV camera the police clearly didn't know was there. It was published last Thursday by an online news site and narrated by the victim, 41-year-old music producer Michel Zecler, whose arm is in a sling from the beating. Zecler says he ducked back into his studio from the street when he saw the police because he wasn't wearing his face mask.

MICHEL ZECLER: (Non-English language spoken).

BEARDSLEY: "They followed me, and I felt their hands pushing and grabbing me," he says. "They told me to get out, and I said, no, I'm in my own home. And then they shut the door and began beating me. I was yelling for help. It went so fast, I didn't know what was happening. And at one point, I wondered if they were real police."

The video of the gratuitous beating of a Black man has deeply shocked France. President Macron said it put shame on the nation and has called Zecler personally.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT EMMANUEL MACRON: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: On Sunday, the Paris prosecutor put the four officers under formal investigation. They've been suspended and are being held in custody. In a sign the government could be preparing to backtrack, the prime minister announced a commission to redraft the contentious article. But after the video, the chorus is growing to withdraw it entirely.

Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Paris.

(SOUNDBITE OF PETE ROCK SONG, "RHYME WRITER") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.