PARIS — Declaring that their work has grow to be more and more harmful as a result of of the federal government’s failure to handle France’s underlying social issues, hundreds of cops protested in Paris on Wednesday in a present of drive that left politicians scrambling.
Police union leaders demanded harder legal guidelines for violence towards officers and stiffer sentences towards convicted criminals as hundreds massed in the rain in entrance of the National Assembly, issuing warnings to political leaders who had been current however weren’t invited to talk.
“Your presence is an important sign,’’ Fabien Vanhemelryck, the secretary general of Alliance Police, a right-leaning union whose members appeared to dominate the protest, said from a stage next to a giant screen. “It must not be a sign of future elections, but a wake-up call, a sense of responsibility, of change and a return to safety.’’
The protest, organized by 14 police unions, came after the recent killings of an officer and a police employee, even as pressure has been mounting to reform a force often criticized for its brutal tactics and racist behavior.
With the theme of crime already dominating the political debate a year before the presidential election, the protest drew leaders from nearly all of France’s political parties. The criticism of official policy put the government of President Emmanuel Macron in an awkward situation and threatened to overshadow a rare nugget of good news on Wednesday, as restaurants and cafes partially reopened nationwide after months of pandemic restrictions.
Gérald Darmanin — the powerful interior minister and head of the national police — joined the demonstration as officers called out to him, “We need your help.’’
In a rare instance of a minister joining a demonstration critical of his own government, Mr. Darmanin said he was simply expressing his solidarity while political rivals said he was effectively protesting against himself. Mr. Darmanin has spearheaded the government’s efforts to fend off a challenge from Marine Le Pen, the far-right leader and Mr. Macron’s main challenger.
The issue of crime has directly affected the fortunes of French politicians and parties in the past two decades, and is expected to do so again in the coming months, as France tries to pull itself out of the ravages caused by the pandemic. On Wednesday, some political figures on the left joined the protest and talked tough on crime, even though the government’s statistics do not show the kind of criminality conjured by politicians.
Fabien Roussel, the leader of the French Communist Party, recently launched his presidential campaign with an emphasis on crime.
In an interview, Mr. Roussel said that “there is a kind of normalization of violence today” and that he needed “to ensure that we can deliver safety to all,” adopting phrases and a tone normally heard from right-wing politicians.
“It’s no longer possible to neglect this issue,” he stated.
France is one of the few Western democracies with a centralized police, and its 150,000-member nationwide drive is one of essentially the most highly effective constituencies in the nation. Because it falls beneath the direct authority of the inside ministry, the protest amounted to “a demonstration of defiance toward the government,” stated Fabien Jobard, a political scientist specializing on the police.
Protesters started by paying hommage to Eric Masson, an officer killed in the southern metropolis of Avignon throughout an antidrug operation, and Stéphanie Monfermé, a police worker killed in a terrorist assault at a police station in the town of Rambouillet, close to Paris.
The quantity of cops injured whereas on responsibility has practically doubled in the previous 15 years, leaping from 3,842 in 2004 to six,760 in 2019, throughout a 12 months marked by violent Yellow Vest protests, in line with figures from the inside ministry.
Mr. Macron has lately stepped up efforts to answer police issues. He pledged to recruit 10,000 extra cops by the top of his present five-year time period and went on a ride-along with officers in a drug-dealing space of the town of Montpellier.
While police leaders have demanded harder legal guidelines, they’ve additionally attributed crime to the failure of successive governments to take care of France’s social issues, from the poor integration of immigrant youngsters to issues in the nation’s colleges.
Linda Kebbab, a consultant for Unity SGP Working Police Force, the most important police union, stated that the police had been typically confronted with “the collective failure of the state for the past 40 years” in implementing correct social and academic insurance policies, particularly in impoverished, high-crime areas. Instead, she stated, officers had grow to be the federal government’s final resort to make sure safety in these areas, at their very own danger.
“We are being sacrificed,” she stated in an interview.
At the protest, which was additionally joined by residents expressing help for the police, Daniel Chomette, a consultant for Alliance Police and a police officer for 34 years, stated that officers typically had the “impression of working for nothing.’’
“The police are asked to solve all the problems of society, even as they put obstacle in front of us,’’ Mr. Chomette said, as protesters behind him held signs that read, “Paid to serve, not to die.’’
The police have been pushing back on proposals to reform their methods, such as banning chokeholds, and to open themselves up to greater scrutiny for racism. Police unions also recently broke off monthslong talks with the government on potential reforms.
Controversies over deadly and brutal police interventions sparked widespread protests against the police last year. A contentious security law empowering the police drew thousands of protesters to the street as video footage revealed the brutal beating of a Black music producer, Michel Zecler, inside his own Paris studio by officers.
While police union leaders emphasized in Wednesday’s protest that their duty was to protect French citizens, the national force is often seen as protecting the interests of the state. A recent poll showed that 27 percent of respondents said they regarded the police with “anxiety’’ or “hostility.’’
“The police play a very strong role in protecting the political regime in France,” Mr. Jobard, the police professional stated, including that they typically “feel that politicians are using them as a firewall, as a shield.”
Despite the intensifying debate on insecurity, crime in France rose in the Nineteen Seventies by means of the mid-Eighties earlier than declining and stabilizing. Government information present that almost all main crimes at the moment are decrease than they had been a decade or three years in the past.
France’s per capita murder fee — 1.16 per 100,000 individuals in 2018 — was about the identical as most elements of Britain, in line with data from the European Commission, whereas Germany’s fee was 0.76. France’s fee was far decrease than that of the United States, which was 5 per 100,000 individuals in 2018, according to F.B.I. data.