The French government vowed a hardline response to attacks on law enforcement Monday, after a police station in suburban Paris became the latest target of an anti-cop attack.
About 40 masked assailants armed with metal bars and fireworks attacked the station in Champigny-sur-Marne in Paris’s southeastern suburbs shortly before midnight Saturday.
Two police officers who were on a cigarette break in front of the station narrowly managed to barricade themselves inside as the mob tried unsuccessfully to storm the building. The attackers then smashed up five nearby police vehicles and the glass entrance to the station, targeting it with a spectacular barrage of fireworks.
Nobody was injured in the attack, which lasted about an hour.
The attack has prompted tough rhetoric from French government ministers amid rising concern about attacks on police officers, and occasionally firefighters. On Wednesday, attackers pulled two police officers in plainclothes out of their vehicle in another Paris suburb and shot them multiple times with their own weapons, leaving one in a serious condition.
“I hope that when the police, firefighters, elected officials are attacked, the penal response will be as severe as possible,” French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin tweeted Monday.
During a visit to the station Sunday, he decried the attack as an “act of savagery” against a symbol of the authority of the French republic, and said he would try to ban the sale of fireworks on the internet.
"I have come to tell all those who try to test the Republic that they will not win," he said. He later tweeted that police would not be intimidated and that President Emmanuel Macron would meet with police unions Thursday to discuss ways to better protect officers.
"These little dealers do not impress anyone, and will not discourage our work against narcotics," he said.
The attacked police station is located in a major housing estate, home to 10,000 residents, which is known for drug dealing and had been identified by authorities as a high priority area for law and order to be improved. The station has been attacked twice in the last two years, and has recently undergone works to make it more secure.
Champigny Mayor Laurent Jeanne told France’s BFM TV that the attack may have been triggered by a recent scooter accident that some locals blamed on police.
"It was an organized attack of about 40 people who wanted to do battle,” he said. “For a few days it has been tense with people who have a certain willingness to do battle with the police.”
Police unions decried the attack and said the government had failed to address a growing hostility and lack of support from the public towards officers.
"What will it take for the government to commit to protecting its security forces?" Frederic Lagache of the Alliance police union said Sunday.
The attack came just a day after Darmanin, Prime Minister Jean Castex and other government ministers visited the southern city of Toulouse to assess efforts to tackle drug dealing there. Following the assault in Champigny, Castex expressed the government’s “unwavering support” to the police and security forces, and reiterated a government pledge to recruit 10,000 extra cops by 2022.
While concern has been growing in France over brazen anti-police violence, so have claims of systemic racism with the force, highlighted by local protests inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement. Last month, a journalist who spent almost six months undercover in a Paris police force published a book detailing the racism and routine violence he saw meted out by his colleagues.