Protesters in Paris have attacked a police car with two officers inside with iron bars and set it alight in a dramatic unleashing of new anti-police violence, as officers across France took to the streets to denounce violence they say has been repeatedly directed at them.
Police have launched an attempted murder investigation following the car attack, which left one of the officers in hospital.
Protesters in Paris and elsewhere allege police have instigated violence during a series of demonstrations against controversial labour reforms.
“Everybody hates the police!” they chanted at the Place de la Republique in Paris, where several hundred police officers gathered on their lunch break to condemn “anti-cop hate”. The protesters were dispersed with pepper spray.
Paris police chief Michel Cadot told a news conference that about 15 protesters, some masked, attacked the car and threw a Molotov cocktail at it, setting it alight.
The male driver was attacked when he got out of the car and was taken to hospital. His female partner suffered slight injuries.
Mr Cadot denounced a level of violence “rarely reached, extremely shocking”.
But Vanina Giudicelli, one of the protesters at the Republique, said the police gathering was “a real provocation”.
She said: “Since the first demonstration on March 9, we notice that they generate the violence. We have been sprayed by gas, hit with batons, arrested.” She had no known connection to the attack on the police car.
Jean-Claude Delage, secretary-general of the Alliance police union, denounced an “escalation of violence” in the labour protests and said some people were harassing police officers with projectiles and Molotov cocktails and even hitting them with bars.
“Troublemakers provoke clashes in the middle of peaceful protests. So it’s very complicated for police forces to isolate and arrest them,” Mr Delage said.
French President Francois Hollande said on Tuesday that more than 350 police officers have been injured in clashes and 60 people have been convicted amid the labour reform protests.
Interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve offered his “full support” to police following the weekly cabinet meeting. He said the police have instructions to take “firm action” against those involved in violent clashes.
Jean-Marc Falcone, general director of the police, told Europe 1 radio: “Anti-cop hatred comes from a small portion of the population… but these 10% are very violent.” Den Hond and Elaine Ganley contributed to the story.