• France's news in English
Why does 'everyone in France hate the police'?
Photos: AFP

Why does 'everyone in France hate the police'?

Ben McPartland · 4 May 2016, 17:40

Published: 04 May 2016 17:40 GMT+02:00
Updated: 04 May 2016 17:40 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

It feels a long time since January 11th 2015, when as millions of marched through the streets of Paris to mourn the victims of the terror attacks, the crowds clapped and cheered as vans of riot police snaked their way through the throng.

The incident made headlines, because it was so rare in France for the public to show such an appreciation, even warmth for the forces of law and order.

Things have deteriorated somewhat since then.

In recent weeks a hardcore minority of protesters who have attached themselves to the anti-labour reform protests have directed their anger as well as concrete blocks and homemade fireworks against the police, leaving dozens injured.

The common chant now heard at protests is not everyone hates the labour reforms, but “everyone hates the police”.

And officers have had enough.

“We have gone from being embraced by the crowds after the Charlie Hebdo killings to being attacked repeatedly in the streets,” Philippe Lavenu, from leading police union Alliance, told The Local.

“We are exhausted. We are sick of this and that’s why we are calling on officers to protest on May 18th.

“We don’t deserve it. We had an incredibly tough year in 2015 with the two terror attacks. Officers have been working on their days off and without holidays and they are worn out,” said Lavenu.

During the recent protests much of the violence directed towards police has been carried out by anti-capitalists or anarchists, groups like “Black Block” who in the words of Lavenu are only interested in “attacking the police and smashing up” banks and other symbols of wealth.

“We are the representatives of the state, and the state to them means capitalism. I am sure they know absolutely nothing about the labour laws, they are just against everything,” he said.

But as well as the hardcore anti-capitalists who have been involved in violent protests in many first world countries, police say the “anti-cop” sentiment in France has been whipped up by leftist trade unions.

The hardline CGT union recently printed two provocative posters, one which showed policeman standing in pools of blood, supposedly from wounds they had inflicted on protesters with the word “Stop!”.

Alliance’s Lavenu accuses the radical unions of forgetting their responsibilities and organising a hate campaign against them.

“Even at a recent anti-labour law protests we could hear trade union speakers talking about police violence. It’s hurtful,” he said.

In a press release Alliance union condemned the fact the police are being made out to be “wild brutes who blindly punch young people” as well as the ideology that encourages hatred and violence against police.”

But the problem police in France face is that officers continue to be caught on camera sticking the boot in to protesters, for want of a better expression.

The specialist CRS police who deal with public disorder have a reputation of taking no prisoners and videos on YouTube showing an officer punching a young high school student in the head or kicking a woman in the stomach will hardly ease tensions.


Recent high profile incidents, such as the eco-protestor who was killed by a police stun grenade have also helped to instill a hatred for police among hardline militant groups.

French youths also have bitter memories of the death of two youths in 2005, who were electrocuted at a substation as they ran from police. Their deaths sparked nationwide riots.

But Lavenu insists it is wrong to talk of “police violence”.

Story continues below…

“The case of the officer punching a school pupil was not police violence it was violence by one individual officer, who needs to explain himself before a court,” he said. “There is a judicial process for that.

“No one talks about protester violence, even though the numbers of injured are far higher among officers than demonstrators.”

Since the protests began some 300 officers have been injured, forcing the government to repeatedly condemn protesters and call for calm.

Despite the police anger, Fabien Jobard, a specialist on policing matters from France’s National Centre of Scientific Research said the police should be expected to deal with trouble.

“We need to put things in perspective. There is a confrontation between certain people who want to attack the police and the police who respond.

“This is the job of the police. They are paid for that with tax payers money.”

Ben McPartland (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
France given wake up call as it bids for Brexit business
The business district 'La Defense' in Paris. Photo: AFP

France clearly has some work to do if it really wants to pinch business from the UK post-Brexit.

Mouth fun? French words you just can't translate literally
Do you know the French word for throat-support? Photo: AFP

Word of warning: Don't translate French literally.

How France plans to help its stressed-out police force
Yellow smoke rises around French police officers in Paris holding a banner reading "Solidarity with our colleagues, police angry". All photos: AFP

Could these measures stop the cops from protesting?

'3,000 migrants dispersed' after 'Jungle' clearance
Photo: AFP

While thousands of migrants have been bussed out around France, new ones are arriving all the time and thousands of others have simply been dispersed aid agencies say.

Fifteen of the most bizarre laws in France
Photo: Matthew Powell/Flickr

A must read for anyone who wants to stay on the right side of the law in France.

Medieval town in south of France upholds ban on UFOs
The town of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Photo: Aa77zz/Flickr

Aliens take note.

American tourist dies at French Riviera sex club
The Riviera resort of Cannes. Photo: AFP

American tourist reportedly fell five floors after being pushed outside the underground sex club in Cannes.

Paris: 'Flying' water taxis to be tested on River Seine
Photo: SeaBubbles

An in Seine idea surely? But tests will go ahead.

France joins fight for rich pickings from post-Brexit UK
Photo: AFP/DcnH/Flickr

France tries to woo EU's bank regulator and other agencies.

How speaking French can really mess up your English
Photo: CollegeDegree360/Flickr

So you've mastered French, but now it's time to learn English all over again.

The annoying questions only a half French, half Brit can answer
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Forget Brangelina's chateau - here are nine others you've got to see
The must-see French films of the millennium - Part One
How life for expats in France has changed over the years
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
jobs available