French police stage fresh protests against anti-cop violence
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Disgruntled French police officers took to the streets in fresh protests against anti-police violence overnight Tuesday as authorities appealed for calm.
In a bid to stem an unprecedented movement by fed-up policemen, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve met with police union representatives on Wednesday afternoon.
After the gathering Cazeneuve announced that fresh discussions between the government and police officers would start as early as next week, in order to establish officers’ grievances and demands.
The “emergency” meeting came less than 48-hours after a demonstration on the Champs Elysées in the heart of Paris, which was followed by a second protest in the suburb of Evry as national police director Jean-Marc Falcone met with unit chiefs.
Some 400 officers gathered in the Parisian suburb, loudly heckling Falcone's car when he drove off, calling for his resignation.
A further sixty other officers assembled in front of Paris’s Saint-Louis Hospital, where an officer who was seriously injured in a Molotov cocktail attack in Viry-Châtillon, outside Paris, on October 8 is being treated. That attack, which has exacerbated officers’ anger, saw four of their colleagues injured, including two seriously, as a group of about 10 people broke two police cars’ windows and set the vehicles alight while attempting to trap the officers inside.
A police source told Agence France-Presse that the life of the 28-year-old officer being treated at the Saint-Louis Hospital was still in danger on Tuesday.
An additional hundred officers gathered in the small hours of Wednesday on the Old Port of Marseilles using approximately forty patrol cars.
On Monday evening hundreds of French police officers staged the unauthorised protest in Paris, driving their vehicles down the Champs Elysées boulevard with sirens and flashing lights.
“Demonstrating with police cars and revolving blue lights… is not in conformity with the deontology of the police in the French Republic,” Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told the Senate. “They are illustrating an exasperation that I understand,” he nevertheless added.
French security forces are already under immense pressure following a string of deadly Islamist militant attacks in the past 18 months. Police say they face staff and equipment shortages, and are frequently forced to work overtime.
Police unions complained angrily a week ago about the risk of being sent into gang-ridden “no-go zones” after the Viry-Châtillon attack in a notoriously crime-ridden zone 30 km south of Paris.
Local TV channels LCI and BFM TV broadcast interviews with the police officers who said they had decided to organise the protest spontaneously, without official backing of their labour unions. Their job was becoming impossible, the officers, whose identities were concealed, told the television stations.
Falcone condemned the protest action in a statement on Tuesday.
“Police officers cannot transgress the responsibility their status imposes and which underpins the legitimacy of their police and public service mission as well as the laws of the republic,” the national police director said.
An internal investigation will establish who was responsible, he said.
The government of Socialist President François Hollande, who faces presidential and legislative elections in the first half of 2017, has started restoring thousands of police posts axed by former President Nicolas Sarkozy.
But it has also deployed thousands of police and soldiers in a bid to boost security at sensitive sites such as schools, synagogues and train stations in the wake of militant attacks.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)