French police are protesting in Paris to demand that the government suppress the attacks

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French police officers staged a massive demonstration outside parliament on Wednesday to push for a law that protects the protectors who feel vulnerable, angry and useless from attacks.

The security forces meeting was a bold and unusual move for members of an institution that emphasizes duty and discretion. The protest also turned into what appeared to be a campaign stop for politicians ahead of regional elections next month and a presidential race next year, with security a top priority.

Home Secretary Gerald Darmanin appeared at the start, squeezing through a packed crowd of hundreds of waving union flags. Representatives of the far-right National Rally and a large number of other parties were expected. The politicians clearly hope to be able to send a signal that security issues and police officers, a significant polling pool, are their friends.

“You must help us, Mr. Secretary,” an officer said emotionally to Darmanin.

“Every morning when I wake up, every night when I sleep, I think of you,” Darmanin said, adding that his presence at the protest was ‘normal’ given his role as a top French agent.

Police unions announced prior to the meeting that politicians were not allowed to make speeches. “No one will confiscate the words of police or civilians,” said a statement from 10 unions conducting the demonstration.

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 throwing objects and fireworks, the police are angry.

‘Paid to Serve, Not to Die’

“Paid to Serve, Not to Die” read a giant banner in front of the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament.

Police are calling for a law to guarantee imprisonment for those who attack them and for a justice system to punish the petty offenders they arrest and re-arrest after the courts release them.

Polls show widespread support for the police, but critics cite cases of cruelty, including a man who died after a beating this year. A group of organizations filed a lawsuit in January for systemic racism among French security forces.

Cops reject what they label as “police bashing,” which undermines their work.

Darmanin’s presence at Wednesday’s protest sparked an outpouring of criticism. The tough interior minister has made hunting down drug dealers in the area a priority.

French President Emmanuel Macron, expected to be re-elected in 2022, has put security high on his agenda. However, the police want more than a list of promises, such as guaranteeing a 30-year prison sentence for anyone convicted of murdering an officer.

(AP)