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Police protests grow in France
[PARIS] With protests spreading across the country, the French government sought to contain growing anger among police officers Thursday as the issue entered the presidential race.
Following a string of attacks on officers, the police are calling for reinforcements and more resources, as well as stiffer penalties for offenders.
Several hundred, all dressed in civilian clothes, demonstrated for a second night on the Champs Elysees avenue in Paris on Wednesday, eventually gathering at the Arc de Triomphe to sing the Marseillaise national anthem.
"Police officers need recognition," Prime Minister Manuel Valls said Thursday.
"They are loved by the French people, and not only since Charlie," he added, referring to an outpouring of sympathy for police following the attack last year on the Charlie Hebdo magazine.
The execution-style killing of a police officer during the raid by two extremists became one of the emblematic images of the tragedy, the first in a string of Islamist-inspired attacks that have shocked France.
"I call for calm and peace and I say to the police officers of France that they can count on my support, my solidarity, my understanding and my commitment," Mr Valls continued.
With security at its highest possible level, officers have been up in arms over attacks on officers during patrols in tough suburbs and during street demonstrations.
On Oct 8, a 28-year-old officer suffered serious burns when he was attacked with a petrol bomb on the outskirts of the capital. He remains in a coma.
Police unions, which have already met Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, are demanding a meeting with President Francois Hollande and calling for fixed minimum sentences for attacks on the police.
Justice Minister Jean-Jacques Urvoas met union representatives on Wednesday and pledged his "entire support to the police... who are exposed to significant and constant risks".
Police were also set to protest Thursday in the central city of Lyon after officers came under attack in the gritty Venissieux suburb where around 40 youths pelted them with petrol bombs.
Under French law, police may protest only when off duty, out of uniform and provided they leave their service weapons and vehicles behind.
The Socialist government has accused former president Nicolas Sarkozy of cutting 10,00 police jobs during his 2007-2012 presidency.
Mr Sarkozy, who is bidding to clinch the right-wing nomination as he attempts to regain the presidency, described the accusations on Thursday as "lies".