Angry French police hold huge, emotional rally at parliament

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Police officers demonstrate Wednesday, May 19, 2021 in Paris. French police, feeling angry, vulnerable to attacks and useless, are holding an unusual demonstration Wednesday outside parliament to press for a law that protects the protectors. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

PARIS – Thousands of French police officers took part in a huge demonstration outside parliament Wednesday to press for a law that protects the protectors who are feeling vulnerable to attacks, angry and useless.

The rally by security forces represented a bold and unusual move for members of an institution that stresses duty and discretion. The protest drew civilian supporters and morphed into what looked like a campaign stop for politicians ahead of regional elections next month and a presidential race next year, with security a top concern.

Hard-line Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin showed up at the start, squeezing through a packed crowd of hundreds waving labor union flags. Representatives from the far-right National Rally and a multitude of other parties were expected to attend. The politicians clearly hope to send a message that security matters and police officers, a considerable voting pool, are their friends.

“You must help us, Mr. Minister,” an officer said with emotion to Darmanin.

“Every morning when I awake, every night when I sleep, I think of you,” Darmanin said, adding that his presence at the protest was “normal" given his role as France's top cop.

Police unions gave notice ahead of the rally that politicians would not be allowed to make speeches. “No one will confiscate the words of police or citizens,” said a statement by 10 unions holding the demonstration.

Organizers said about 35,000 people, both officers and members of the public, attended the rally, which spilled across a main boulevard to the Seine River.

With two officers killed in recent weeks - one in a terrorist attack and another by a suspected 19-year-old delinquent - and constant encounters with young people who throw objects and fireworks, police are angry.