'We want protection': French police protest violence against officers

PARIS (Reuters) - French police protested in front of their stations on Monday after dozens of assailants in a Paris suburb attacked one base with metal bars and a barrage of fireworks over the weekend.

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Officers gathered outside the headquarters of Paris Police, holding banners that read “Police under attack, citizens in danger”. In the low-income Champigny neighbourhood, where Saturday night’s unrest occurred, police carried the slogan: “Your security has a price. We want protection and recognition.”

“I hear politicians say that the authority of the state must not be trampled. I totally agree with that. I would like to see actions to prove that this will not happen again,” Grégory Joron, a representative for the Unité SGP Police Force Ouvrière union told Reuters.

He was speaking in front of the Champigny police station where about 200 of his colleagues were demonstrating.

French police are under pressure after a series of media reports this summer revealed endemic racism and far right sentiments among its ranks.

President Emmanuel Macron’s government has a fraught relationship with the police, which accuse it of scapegoating law enforcement agencies during protests against racism and police brutality earlier this year.

The protests, part of a global wave of demonstrations triggered by the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis in May, focused on the death of a young Black man in police custody in 2016 in similar circumstances to Floyd.

Macron is due to meet police unions on Thursday in an attempt to quell the simmering discontent.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin has said the government wants to amend a security bill defining fireworks as a type of arm and ban their sale, including on the internet. Police unions have denounced it as an inadequate gesture and say more officers are needed on the streets.

The Champigny police station is located in a housing estate which the police say is a hub for drug trafficking.

“The area is plagued by drug trafficking. There is a sentiment of impunity. They no longer fear the police,”Joron added.

Police officers have also been the targets of attacks Islamist militants or individuals with suspected Islamist sympathies, including one which saw a police IT worker kill four colleagues in a knife rampage last year.

(This story has been refiled to correct typo in second paragraph)

Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; additional reporing Lucien Libert, Editing by Richard Lough and Raissa Kasolowsky