French police rally against arrest of officer who shot dead two men

·2-min read

Police staged protests in dozens of cities across France on Monday in support of a colleague who was charged with "voluntary manslaughter" following the death of two men during an intervention on the Pont Neuf bridge in Paris.

The 24-year-old officer used his assault rifle to stop a car as it hurtled towards police on Sunday, 24 April. Both the driver and a passenger were shot dead. A third passenger was wounded. The officer says he acted in self defence.

Under a banner of "be convicted or be killed”, police unions are calling for the "presumption of self defence" in the event of a fatal outcome during a police response.

"How can we think that a police officer gets up in the morning and says to themselves 'I'm going to kill someone'?" Fabien Vanhemelryck, secretary general of the Alliance police union, told France Info radio.

"Our colleague saved a person from drowning. Yesterday he was a hero, today he is under investigation.”

Guilty of 'saving colleagues'

The unions argue the officer in question is “guilty of having saved his colleagues”, and called for rallies to take place in front of French courthouses and police stations.

In Paris, more than a hundred police gathered in front of the Saint-Michel fountain, a few metres from the scene of the event.

Large rallies were also held in Marseille, Nantes, Lyon, Lille, Toulouse and many other cities.

Laws including a presumption of self defence for police officers and gendarmes were among the proposals of far-right party candidates in last week's presidential election.

Rudy Manna, Alliance secretary in the Bouches-du-Rhône department, told France 3 TV that it was ”unbearable” that a police officer should be indicted for manslaughter when “he acted in the course of his work, to protect himself and his colleagues”.

Amandine, a policewoman in the northern Hauts-de-Seine department told Le Parisien: "We do not ask for a license to kill. Shooting is not harmless, it has a huge psychological impact.

"What is acceptable? To let yourself be run over?"

Meanwhile Eric Moulin of the Unsa police union, which helped to organise Monday’s protests, told BFMTV: "What we are asking today is that police officers who have exceptional constraints can benefit from exceptional jurisdiction and exceptional protection.”

However during a hearing last Wednesday, judges found the police officer's response to be disproportionate because it was unclear if the officers were facing an immediate danger of death.

The officer was released under judicial supervision.

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