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France

French police to demonstrate against 'anti-cop hatred'

media French CRS riot police officer during clashes during a demonstration against the labour reform on 28 April Reuters/Charles Platiau

French police unions have called a day of protest against "anti-cop hatred" on 18 May. They claim they are being portrayed as "savage brutes who blindly beat young people" following clashes between demonstrators and police on marches against the government's proposed labour reform and the trade unions' May Day rally.

Police union Alliance has called for rallies in French cities, including on Paris's Place de la République, the scene of left-wing Up All Night protests in recent weeks.

The union said it was angered by an "irresponsible determination to spread the idea that the police are savage brutes who blindly beat young people", dubbing it "ideological demagogy that incites hatred and violence against the republican police".

The call has been backed by another union, Alternative Police, which says it wants to "express its anger and denounce the anti-cop hatred that has been spreading among demonstrators for several weeks".

Groups of demonstrators, some chanting "Everybody hates the police!", have fought police on recent protests against the labour reform.

Acording to government spokesperson Stéphane Le Foll, "more than 300" officers have been injured since the beginning of the year.

On Tuesday seven were hurt during an anti-labour law protest in the western city of Nantes and the evacuation of a school occupied by migrants on Wednesday morning saw another three suffering minor injuries.

Although the government has denounced the violence, right-wing politicians have accused it of laxness, calling for tougher action against "casseurs", groups of youths who fight police and attack property during demonstrations, and for some protests to be banned.

Student loses eye during demo

But the injuries have not all been on one side.

A student lost an eye when he was hit be a Flashball fired by police in Rennes, in Brittany, on 28 April.

That night Paris police were caught on video clubbing and punching demonstrators, some of them handcuffed, while evacuating Up All Night participants from the Place de la République.

The authorities' tactics on May Day also attracted criticism, especially the kettling of a group of about 300 young people, described as violent by officials, who were at the head of the parade, and a number of alleged cases of brutality.

A police officer filmed hitting a school student during a demonstration in March has been charged with "violence committed by a person in authority".

Asked why no detailed figures of demonstrators injured have been released, the Paris prefecture said it was because many do not make official complaints.

Contrast to Charlie Hebdo march

Environmental protests against projects to build a dam in the south of France and an airport in the west have also led to clashes, with an inquiry ongoing into the death of 21-year-old Rémi Fraisse at the former site in 2014.

Today's atmosphere is a stark contrast to January 2015 when participants on the massive march that followed the Charlie Hebdo massacre embraced police officers and paid tribute to Franck Brinsolaro and Ahmed Merabet, who were killed while guarding the paper's staff, and Clarissa Jean-Philippe, who was shot by Amédy Coulibaly before he took people hostage in a Jewish supermarket.

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