Dressed in black, with hoods or masks and some of them armed, the demonstrators marched down the Champs Elysees on October 21st without authorization from the Prefecture. They were lucky. Last spring, the riot cops gassed and clubbed others demonstrators with less incentive to do so…
After playing auxiliary riot police against protesters hostile to the Work Law, part of the national police now begins to protest themselves. Why?
Under the hoods, many reasons for the “discontent”
Filthy workplaces, managers obsessed with the politics of increasingly inaccessible numbers, and a melting workforce: rank and file officers experience some of the same conditions that are already familiar to all workers.
Also, 12% of them are temporary workers, one of which is between life and death after the Viry-Chatillon attack that triggered the mobilization. The risks they take for their health or life set things off. A response that every worker can understand: nobody wants to lose their life while earning it.
Just one hitch
That street cops rebel against their superiors, that they no longer want to be sent recklessly to do the dirty work of the successive governments, that is understandable.
However, for the first time they dare to protest, it’s too bad they follow demands made by far right hotheads (including ex-cops converted into undercover agents), which amounts to shooting themselves in the foot. Demanding more powerful weapons or authorization to shoot more often under self-defense? Far from preventing confrontations with small thugs (regular cops never meet the big thugs!), this will make them even more violent.
In the United States, Brazil, Mexico and the Philippines, the militarization of the police was accompanied by a parallel militarization of criminal networks. Until people no longer distinguish the cops from thugs and cartels.
Giving more weapons to the police threatens them more! And the people suffer dearly: American police beat a sad record in 2015, killing 1,100 people, including 979 by gunshot.
The alleged leniency of justice does not withstand fact checking: prisons have never been so full, not of white collar offenders who steal billions in tax fraud and other large-scale scams, but small dealers recruited from poor neighborhoods, always unemployed and abandoned by welfare.
Victor Hugo used to say “open up schools, you will close prisons.” Indeed, the protesting cops should start by not choosing repressive demands that will cut them off further from the population. They should rather choose the camp of all employees, who demand more schools, jobs, and public services.
Unemployment and job insecurity are rampant. The police are well placed to see it. Escalating violence against the despairing victims of the system will only benefit the extreme right, not the police.
Turn the anger in the right direction
Last spring, during demonstrations against the Work Law, we saw all those young cops dressed as robocops using tear gas and stun grenades on demonstrators. Some police, rather panicked, wondered what they were doing there. Not to the point of disobeying orders. Pity. The protesting cops of today have a problem and a dilemma: their fundamental mission is to protect this unjust and destructive social order. So, if they rebel, they might as well think of joining the other side. And who knows … In revolutions, serious things begin just when security forces defect and pass to the other side of the barricade…