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French minister meets police unions as anti-violence protests spread

French police gather outside a local police station in Paris after the Molotov cocktail attack
French police gather outside a local police station in Paris after the Molotov cocktail attack Reuters/Charles Platiau

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve was to meet police trade union representatives on Wednesday as apparently spontaneous protests against attacks on officers continued. President François Hollande declared his "support" for the police at the weekly cabinet meeting, despite national police chief Jean-Marc Falcone's warning to the ranks that they are not supposed to demonstrate in uniform or using official vehicles.

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Cazeneuve agreed at once to an "urgent meeting" demanded by two police unions and was to see them at 4.30pm on Wednesday.

Both he and Hollande declared their "support" for the police as protests took place in several parts of the country over recent attacks on officers on duty.

The 8 October Molotov cocktail attack on two police cars that left one 28-year-old officer fighting for his life was "perfectly unacceptable", Hollande told the weekly cabinet meeting according to government spokesperson Stéphane Le Foll.

He also condemned recent violence against hospital staff and teachers.

But, with the government's law-and-order policies under fire from the mainstream right Republicans and the far-right National Front, Hollande called for dialogue with police unions.

Demonstrations in Evry, Marseille

Following Monday night's apparently spontaneous protest by police officers in uniform and police cars in central Paris, about 400 off-duty cops demonstrated outside a police station in Evry, near the town where the firebomb attack took place, on Tuesday night.

Waving placards declaring "Solidarity with our colleagues", they booed Falcone, who has reminded them that they are not allowed to demonstrate while on duty or in uniform.

About 100 defied the uniform ban in the southern city of Marseille on Tuesday night.

Officers in plain clothes have held vigils for the last two nights outside the hospital where the 8 October attack victim lies in a coma.

Although an internal inquiry has been launched into Monday night's protest, Cazeneuve said Wednesday he did not want to "enter a cycle of punishment".

Silent demonstration planned

This week's demonstrations appear to have been at the initiative of individuals or groups of officers but a police union on Wednesday called for silent protests across the country on 26 October, appealing to the public to join them to show their support.

Last May police officers demonstrated against "anti-cop hatred" in Paris, following attacks on officers on the fringes of demonstrations against labour reform.

In June a man linked to the Islamic State armed group murdered a police officer and his wife.

Investigations into anti-police graffiti in Paris universities have been launched over the last fortnight.

Alain Juppé, the favourite to win the mainstream right nomination in next year's presidential election, said he "perfectly understands our police officers' feelings today", claiming that "today the state's authority is no longer respected" and that the police are oveworked.

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