With six months to go before the presidential election President François Hollande’s government is facing an untimely rebellion among the country’s police force.
On Wednesday night officers took to the streets of Paris, Nancy, Toulouse and other towns and cities across France in what was the third night of unauthorised, spontaneous protests.
Some 500 officers descended on the symbolic Place de la Republique in Paris, the focal point of many protests in the capital, where they sang the Marseillaise and chanted for Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve to resign.
They then marched in silence to the nearby Hospital Saint Louis, where one of their colleagues is still being treated after being targeted in a vicious petrol bomb attack in a Paris suburb earlier this month. The attack was the trigger for the police to ignore warnings from their own chiefs and demonstrate their anger on the streets.
“CAZENEUVE DÉMISSION” scandé par les policiers. pic.twitter.com/H69PnreU8a
— Remy Buisine (@RemyBuisine) 19 octobre 2016
Scores of officers also gathered underneath the Arc de Triomph on the Champs-Elysées.
Ces centaines de policiers formant une ligne et reprenant l'hymne national sur les Champs-Elysées.
Solidarité et moment fort de la soirée. pic.twitter.com/F8CUMybcJa
— Remy Buisine (@RemyBuisine) 20 octobre 2016
The rise in violence against police officers in France is the main motivation for the protests, with one officer saying: “We no longer feel safe and neither do the French people.”
Police unions say some 500 officers are injured in the line of duty each month.
Wednesday’s protests happened despite the Interior Minister Cazeneuve and Justice Minister Jean-Jacques Urvoas holding talks with police union leaders earlier in the day.
In a move aimed at quelling the protests, the government announced that a series of consultations would take place around the country to listen to the concerns of police forces in each region.
The government promised to act upon the results of those consultations in 2017.
Some police unions want the rules on when “legitimate defence” can be relaxed to allow officers to respond to violent attacks without fear of being investigated and punished.
They also want the justice system to introduce harsher punishments for those found guilty of violence towards officers.
The growing malaise among the French police has been exacerbated by the fact France has been under a state of emergency for nearly a year meaning officers have been forced to work longer hours in more difficult conditions.
In recent months numerous officers were injured during violent anti-labour reform protests and two off-duty police officials were killed at their home north of Paris in a cold-blooded jihadist attack.
Graffiti tags reading “a good cop is a dead cop” were also found scrawled on the walls of a university in Paris.
The incidents have badly hit police morale and one survey this week revealed that one in four officers were prepared to vote for the far right National Front in next year’s presidential elections.
Police are set to hold a national day of protest on October 26th with the public invited to join them.