I had my first jab on Wednesday, at a vaccination centre in the south of Paris, run by the fire service. The fireman who administered my vaccine shared my love of rugby and once the ice had broken I asked him what life was like as a firefighter (I’ve heard some terrible stories, of fire crews attacked as they worked). His district was relatively calm, he told me, unlike those of some of his colleagues. It’s far worse, he added, for the police, many of whom at that moment were gathering in Paris at a rally attended by several politicians, including Gérald Darmanin, the Interior Minister. Ostensibly it was to remember two of their colleagues who were murdered in recent weeks in separate incidents, one by an Islamist and the other by an alleged drug dealer.
But the rally was also an expression of the deep frustration and anger felt by the police at the intolerable pressure they have faced since January 7 2015, the day one of their number was shot dead by the men who had slaughtered the staff of Charlie Hebdo. In the six and a half years since, 59 police and gendarmes have been killed in the line of duty while tens of thousands have been injured. (By comparison, six British police officers have died over the same period.) Some of the French police were attacked by Islamists, some by Gilet Jaunes, some by drug gangs and some by far-left thugs, like the Antifa mob, who in 2016 attempted to burn alive police officers trapped in their car.
But none of the above facts were mentioned in a report on the BBC News on Wednesday evening about the ‘violence, brutality and racism’ of the French police. I was alerted to the item by my mother, who texted me to say she was shocked at what she had seen on the television.