PARIS (JTA) – Amid a polarizing debate in France about the use of force by and against riot police, the main political organ of French Jewry expressed its gratitude and support for security forces.
Gil Taieb, a vice-president of the CRIF umbrella group of Jewish communities, led on Wednesday a delegation from his organization to a rally at Republique square in Paris, where approximately 3,000 current and former members of the security forces demonstrated in civilian clothing against “anti-sop hatred,” as the organizers of the demonstration defined it.
The rally took place following violent clashes between police and protesters in rallies against France’s legislation on labor, which limits some benefits at the workplace in a bid to stimulate growth in the country’s stagnant economy.
In one incident caught on video Wednesday, a man wearing a balaclava is seen kicking in the driver’s side window of a slow-moving police car before running away as other protesters hurled a large metal pole on the windshield, shattering its rear window and throwing in a Molotov cocktail. Journalists helped the female officer in the passenger seat to get out of the smoking car. The driver, gun in holster, exited the vehicle as a protester beat him with a large stick. The officer left the burning police car on foot as protesters cheered and shouted insults at him.
Protesters told French media police was using excessive force against them, but Pierre-Henry Brandet, the spokesperson for the French interior ministry, said this was “a false claim, leading to a false debate” on France Info Wednesday.
Weighing in squarely on the side of police, CRIF’s social media desk wrote on Twitter: “350 policemen wounded during protests over the past two months. Stop anti-cop hatred!”
CRIF also reposted prominently on its website on Wednesday an online publication it first released in January, expressing gratitude to police and army personnel who are guarding Jewish community sites from attacks. Titled “The Golden Book – messages to police and army who protect us,” it contains quotes by rank-and-file community members alongside its more prominent figures.
Following the murder of four Jews in January 2015 at the Hyper Cacher supermarket by an Islamist, the French government deployed approximately 12,000 troops at Jewish sites across France.