Police violence: “What Camélia Jordana says is obvious, it is the astonishment she meets which is astonishing”

Invited to France 2 on Saturday May 23, the singer and actress Camélia Jordana denounced the police violence at work in France, arousing a very hostile reaction from the Minister of the Interior Christophe Castaner but also from several police unions. Documentary filmmaker and writer David Dufresne, specialist in police violence, returns to the Inrockuptibles on this sequence and what it says about maintaining order today in France.

What did you think of the intervention of Camélia Jordana, who explained on France 2 that “there are thousands of people (including herself) who do not feel safe in the face of a cop”  ?

David Dufresne – I think she expresses the obvious, and what is surprising is the astonishment that her intervention provides: for the past thirty years, we have witnessed a confrontation between the police and part of the population , brutalization of this confrontation. Police violence is today a subject of society and, in a certain way, the sequence of Saturday evening is a bit the coronation of that: that a program as harmless as ONPC addresses this question is all the same the sign that there is a real debate that must open. For years now, collectives, NGOs, associations, researchers, sociologists and even journalists have been making reports, and all of this means that today it has become absolutely impossible to deny this question

Consequently, how to analyze this denial of the political class compared to its intervention, Christophe Castaner evoking for example “lying and shameful remarks”  ? The same goes for certain police unions?

Since taking office at Place Beauvau, Christophe Castaner has been in denial. In the opinion of all the observers of police questions, and moreover even his biographers say it, he has been since Raymond Marcellin the Minister of the Interior closest to the police. He is absolutely incapable of the slightest criticism, when that is his role. Then there are police unions – but not all, and it is very interesting to see the distinctions between the different unions – which are indeed extremely vehement, and which, today, because they can see that the debate is open on police violence, are on the defensive. They overreact, and come to ask for the impossible, namely to ask to sacrifice the greatest of freedoms, that is to say that of freedom of expression.

But here, what is quite strange on their part, is that, on the one hand, we understand very well that Christophe Castaner is treating his troops, the unions, their members, but, at the same time, they are in the process of dig their own graves: by reacting in this way, they display their ferocity and their refusal to dialogue. I’m working on a film on these issues, and it’s quite funny to see who agrees to speak or not. I think that for a whole bunch of historical reasons, which go back very, very far, the Home Office, the police, are incapable of accepting the gaze of others. And this, even though the police are a public force “for the benefit of all and not for the particular benefit of those to whom they are entrusted” , as putarticle 12 of the Declaration of Human Rights .

The police have a lot of trouble with this, with the idea that it is a public service which must be subjected to citizen control, to the observation of all by all. And given that Christophe Castaner, in particular with the Yellow Vests, had left in a martial escalation, he is obliged to continue on this, to refuse this dialogue. He is taken at his own game, which is extremely dangerous. It is absolutely depressing. And all this is accompanied by a whole speech saying that these people are anti-cops, hate the police … And yes, among the people who criticize, it goes even further sometimes, there are even abolitionists. But the bulk of the criticism is not there: it is even almost the reverse, it is rather people who claim a good font, not a bad font.

In recent years, it has really accelerated, especially with the yellow vests, and we obviously have the contribution of social networks, documentation, testimony. And when personalities like Camélia Jordana speak, it’s a good thing, but it’s a bit heartbreaking that the unions, Place Beauvau, the Paris police headquarters, systematically refuse discussion and confrontation with those who document, supporting evidence, document against document, this violence. I had to see Place Beauvau last week, and they canceled. The prefecture also made me understand that it was useless for me to make official requests. Obviously, I manage differently, for example by going through the police. But here we are: today,lists of alleged anti-police haters. What we are witnessing is very simple: the police are completely taken aback. There are many things that explain this: most police think they are acting for the good, for society, and therefore feel attacked in their mission, when it comes to thinking about the doctrine, the custom, to reflect on thirty years of police impunity, to reflect on democratic citizen control of the police; as it exists in Denmark and England. We can no longer be satisfied with the minister’s chin shots and union flyers. There, I think that their overreaction is a bit the high point of people a little panicked.

>> Read also: Camélia Jordana and Assa Traoré: “We are the people, we are the number, we are the force”

Camélia Jordana also said this Saturday on France 2: “I am talking about the men and women who go to work every morning in the suburbs and who are massacred for no other reason than their skin color, it is a fact.” Can we deny today that there is racism at work among certain members of the police?

Obviously, Christophe Castaner and certain police unions rely on the term “massacre” to avoid addressing the substance. It is an extremely classic dodging technique. But no, we can’t deny it, it has been documented. There are people who have worked on the facies offense, for which France has moreover been condemned . There were also reports from the human rights defender, Nazi or fascist insigniathat we saw appear on the police, especially during demonstrations. We know that there is a strong link – but discussed nonetheless – between part of the far right and part of the police. Not all the police are on the right or the far right, but, in any case, we know for example that there are police commissioners who work with Marine Le Pen. It is therefore obvious that there are two factors at play: skin color and age. In a way, the police were aware of this when they started ten or fifteen years ago to pay particular attention to hiring, in particular with young police officers from neighborhoods or immigrants; there was this will displayed to break this image of a white, racist police, etc.

So obviously there is a concern but, beyond that, what has been going on since Saturday is really very important: we are talking about a form of police violence against young people from working-class neighborhoods. For a while, we talked about the violence against the demonstrators, be it the yellow vests, the high school students, the pensioners, the hospital staff. Then there was the violence during the confinement during the controls. And then there are all the other types of violence which are not documented, but which nevertheless exist: what happens in police stations, during police custody, etc. Finally, there is today, where there arises in the public debate the question of violence which has existed for a long time, but of which we have today the images, illustrations, courageous declarations. It changes absolutely everything and,

While defending himself, ex-LREM deputy Aurélien Taché said on Twitter that “the price to pay (was going to be terrible)” for Camélia Jordana. What does he mean by that?

I indeed saw this tweet pass. And it is true that as soon as you question the actions of the police, you expose yourself to hostility, to a difficulty. Camélia Jordana’s intervention is all the more luminous and courageous because this kind of talk is rare among personalities from the world of entertainment, which is not very courageous. So well done to her, frankly.

But compared to what Taché said, if the police and their leaders continue to refuse to look at things and to critically examine them, I think it will be terrible. However, concerning this issue of racism in the police, the misuse of the use of force, legitimacy, legality – because the police confuse legality and legitimacy – all these questions are documented, filmed, sourced. It should nevertheless be noted what France has received as critics in recent months: the Council of Europe , the European Parliament , Amnesty International , or even the United Nations have called the police and the French state to account – not to mention the League for Human Rights,the Defender of Rights , etc. But that goes back a long way: Castaner jumped with both feet in doctrines, in methods, ways of conceiving the police which go back more than twenty years. Even Charles Pasqua, or even Nicolas Sarkozy were able, at times, to criticize their men. Castaner, on the other hand, made two outings so minimal that we forgot them.

How do you analyze the nights of revolt that followed the death of a young man on a motorcycle , Sabri, near a BAC car, in Aubervilliers? Regarding the distrust of the police, we can also think of the hashtag #MoiAussiJaiPeurDevantLaPolice, extremely shared on Twitter in the wake of Camélia Jordana’s intervention.

During confinement, some have counted up to twelve deathsin two months during police operations. Typically, this figure is 25 in a year. So something happened during this confinement. That said, it’s still extremely complicated, and when it comes to the death of a man, the minimum is that everyone is as specific as possible. Therefore, concerning Sabri, I have absolutely no idea. On the other hand, the pattern has been known for about thirty years: confrontation with the police, in one way or another, death, revolt, white march, oblivion. This is the classic scheme. But this is changing, especially with committees such as the Justice committee for Wissam or the Truth committee for Adama: there is no forgetting, there is the idea that justice must pass and be done. So it’s always the same story: let us never forget that after Rodney King was beaten, the Los Angeles riots began when the police were acquitted. Why ? Because there is a feeling of injustice that is extremely strong.

Regarding the hashtag #MeAussiJaiPeurDevantLaPolice, which I believe was launched by Assa Traoré, it’s interesting, because we can read testimonies from people from extremely varied horizons: neighborhoods, downtown, countryside, very urban areas dense, which testify to this fear. All this contributes to the need for a debate to be opened, but a real debate. Another interesting aspect is however that some of the police understood that there was a very important issue around this, and that it was useless to make the policy of the ostrich.

>> Read also: #MeAussiJaiPeurDevantLaPolice, a hashtag to support Camélia Jordana

Do you fear a prolongation of the state of health emergency, which has already been extended until July 10?

All historians agree that as soon as there is an emergency law, it is then permanently installed. It was established for health reasons, so a priori indisputable, but we have seen in two months a trampling of public freedoms absolutely staggering, including police powers extended to people who did not necessarily have them before. For example, the possibility for metro guards to check people on board to find out if they have certificates or not. For example, we have seen terrible images of people being kicked out of the metro for these reasons. In short, we policed ​​society even more. So we are witnessing two things: on the one hand, there is a hardening of laws and practices, and, on the other, there is a liberation of speech,

In an interview with Inrockuptibles at the end of December, you wondered about the “beginnings of a police state” at work in France. Are we there today?

Since I said that, which also got me a lot of criticism, that it was not my surprise to see Bernard Squarcini, the boss of the DGSI during the Tarnac affair on which I worked for years, to recognize a few days ago, during an interview , that we were not far from the installation of a police state ( “Internet allows capitalism in full period of confinement to continue working through telework, but also to set up what you (speaking to the interviewer from Thinkerview) call the police state: video surveillance, file management and others. ”). It is interesting: he is very close to Sarkozy, he directed almost all the intelligence services. Afterwards, “police state” can have many meanings: there is obviously no question of saying that France is Chile for example, or that France has become a dictatorship. On the other hand, it is a fact to say that today, the State puts priority on its police force to direct the country. When the government announces containment and at the same time announces a plan to purchase drones– while saying that it is not done for containment, but later acknowledging that it was to set up what is called crowd control – is that we are off to a good start in something that announces a decline in public freedoms. Given that for the past thirty years, we have been caught up in a security discourse on both sides, the price to pay is this: a decline in public freedoms, especially as the parliamentary left has shrunk, shrunk , moved back. So we are in a really worrying situation. This is where what has been going on for a few days is extremely important: I think that all the people who take part in this debate, “for” or “against” Camélia Jordana, it is in fact about all that they speak .

>> Read also: 2019 seen by journalist David Dufresne: “The beginnings of a police state?”

Interview by Amélie Quentel

Source: Violences policières : “Ce que dit Camélia Jordana est évident, c’est l’étonnement qu’elle rencontre qui est étonnant”


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