Hundreds of police have taken to the streets of Paris for a third night of demonstrations calling for reinforcements and stiffer penalties following a string of attacks on officers. Protests also took place in other French cities last night despite the government’s efforts to contain growing anger among police as the issue of safety of law enforcement officers enters the presidential race.
Around 500 officers, most dressed in civilian clothes and some with their faces partly covered, protested near the Eiffel Tower.
“Police officers need recognition,” Prime Minister Manuel Valls said. “They are loved by the French people, and not only since Charlie,” he added, referring to an outpouring of sympathy for police following the attack last year on the Charlie Hebdo magazine.
The execution-style killing of a police officer during the assault by two extremists became one of the emblematic images of the tragedy, the first in a string of Islamist-inspired attacks that have shocked France.
“I call for calm and peace and I say to the police officers of France that they can count on my support, my solidarity, my understanding and my commitment,” Valls said. With security at its highest possible level, officers have been up in arms over attacks on police during patrols in tough suburbs and during street demonstrations. On October 8, a 28-year-old officer suffered serious burns when he was attacked with a petrol bomb on the outskirts of the capital. He remains in a coma.
Police unions, which have already met with Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, are demanding a meeting with President Francois Hollande and calling for fixed minimum sentences for attacks on the police.
Hollande said early today that he planned to meet with police union leaders at the start of next week. Under French law, police may protest only when off duty, out of uniform and provided they leave their service weapons and vehicles behind.
The Socialist government has accused former president Nicolas Sarkozy of cutting 10,00 police jobs during his 2007-2012 presidency. Sarkozy, who is bidding to clinch the right-wing nomination as he attempts to regain the presidency, described the accusations yesterdaday as “lies”.