New protests erupted in France over the weekend, and demonstrators seem to be expressing a variety of different frustrations. During protests in the Paris suburb of Champigny on Saturday night, at least 40 demonstrators armed with metal bars and fireworks stormed the local police station.
“Violent attack last night on the police station of Champigny with mortar shots and various projectiles. No police officer was injured,” the Paris police headquarters said on Sunday.
Videos posted from the scene showed a large number of fireworks being shot in the direction of the police station. The protesters attempted to force their way into the police station, but they were unable to get inside.
— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) October 11, 2020
Police later reported that there were a few smashed windows at the police station and a few damaged cars.
Despite the chaotic scene, no one was arrested. According to Reuters, this is the third attack on the very same police station in the past two years. The station is located near a low-income area that is frequently overpoliced, and the presence of police officers is often unwelcome to the community, who see the police as an occupying force.
Champigny Mayor Laurent Jeanne said the attack may have been triggered after a scooter accident that local residents blamed on the police.
“It was an organised attack of about 40 people who wanted to do battle. For a few days it has been tense with people who have a certain willingness to do battle with the police,” he told BFM TV.
The mayor called the protesters “gang leaders,” and posted in support of the police on Twitter.
On Monday, police across France protested in front of their stations, demanding protection and recognition.
“I hear politicians say that the authority of the state must not be trampled. I totally agree with that. I would like to see actions to prove that this will not happen again,” Grégory Joron, a representative for the Unité SGP Police Force Ouvrière union told Reuters.
Last month, the human rights organization Amnesty International said that authorities in France are taking advantage of newly implemented emergency pandemic laws to arrest thousands of peaceful protesters.
A new report from the organization titled “Arrested for protest: Weaponizing the law to crack down on peaceful protesters in France” documents how a blanket ban on protests following the COVID-19 -lockdown, was disproportionate and resulted in hundreds of unjustified fines. It also finds that long before the pandemic, first aiders, journalists and human rights observers were among those targeted under other vague laws during nationwide protest movements that began in late 2018.
Between November 2018 and July 2019, 11,203 Yellow Vests protesters were placed in pre-charge detention, according to the organization.
These protesters have been arrested and prosecuted for activities that should not constitute a criminal offense. In 2018 and 2019, more than 40,000 people, including protesters, were convicted on the basis of vague laws, including “contempt of public officials”, “participation in a group with a view to committing violent acts” and “organizing a protest without complying with notification requirements.”
France is just one of many countries that is in the midst of coming to terms with the role of police officers in society. All over the world, people who feel persecuted by police are beginning to speak out against the injustice they face on a daily basis, and instead of hearing the complaints and promising change, police are demanding more “respect” authority and submission from populations that are tired of being pushed around.