Weapons including controversial rubber bullets were used against French Yellow Vests demonstrating on behalf of the ‘victims of police violence’ as they rioted in central Paris today.
Heavily armed officers also used tear gas, baton charges and water cannons against members of the mass anti-government movement, who are named after their high visibility motoring jackets.
They were staging their 12th Saturday in a row of demonstrations aimed at getting President Emmanuel Macron to resign.
‘We want him out, but we also want the police to stop wounding us with their Flash Ball weapons,’ said Jacques Caron, a 33-year-old Yellow Vest, who was on the street close to Place de la Bastille.
Yellow Vest protesters mount the statue of Marianne lighting flares at the Place de la République (Republic square) during a demonstration
Demonstrators kicks in tear gas grenades after the police fired them at crowds for the 12th successive weekend on the streets of Paris
Police officers charge at demonstrators after as they try to prevent the Yellow Vest protests spiralling out of control for another weekend
Protesters pick up tear gas grenades and launch them back at the police, despite Yellow Vest leaders calling for peaceful action this weekend
French Yellow Vest movement leader Jerome Rodrigues, 40, addresses people at the start of a march on Saturday in Paris after he was blinded in one eye last weekend in a harrowing moment which was captured on his live stream selfie video
The Interior Ministry reported 80,000 security officials had been deployed across France as the action erupted for a 12th successive Saturday.
In Valance in the south of France, the mayor said measures had been taken to prepare for about 10,000 demonstrators. Authorities fear up to 1,000 of those could be violent rioters.
France’s top administrative court ruled Friday that police could continue using a rubber bullet launcher blamed for dozens of injuries during the Yellow Vest protests which have roiled the country since November.
Last weekend Yellow Vest leader Jerome Rodrigues, 40, lost an eye after being hit by a fragment from a police projectile fired at him.
Like others who have been mutilated in recent months, he said he was hit by a so-called Flash Ball – rubber projectiles fired from police guns.
A bid to have them outlawed failed last week, and numerous officers were seen carrying them today.
Dramatic video of the Rodrigues incident led to other Yellow Vests calling for a ‘mass uprising’ against the Macron administration.
In turn, police suggest that a non-lethal grenade exploded in front of Mr Rodrigues, and he was hit by shrapnel.
A protester walks past a broken shop window which has had tables and chairs thrown into it during clashes with police at Place de la Republique
A protesters holding a placard reading ‘dictatorship regime’ during an anti-government demonstration called by the Yellow vests movement in Strasbourg
A Yellow Vest protester throws a French flag into a fire as a scooter and a bin burn on a street during clashes
Plain clothes policemen are backed in between their police vans as paint bombs spray across their feet at the protests in Paris
Plain clothes policemen detain a Yellow Vest protester holding crutches on the street in Paris
A plain clothes policeman throws a tear gas canister during clashes on the streets of Paris while another appears to be aiming a gun
Protesters hold red flares as they demonstrate against Macron in Valence in southern France where activity was expected to be particularly violent
Speaking earlier this week Jerome said many French police officers had sent him messages of support after his injuries.
Eric Drouet, another leading figure in the protest movement which has paralysed France in recent weeks, said police had ‘aimed at the head’.
Speaking to BFM-TV, Drouet called it a ‘homicide attempt’ and said: ‘When we aim at the head, we try to kill. How should this weapon be used? We must not aim our head.’
Appearing on French-language television with an eye patch, Rodrigues thanked police who had sent him support, telling RT: ‘The police have orders but I know there are men behind the armour.’
Rodrigues, a construction worker, was placed in an artificial coma after the incident at the Bastille monument on Saturday afternoon.
The 40-year-old, who has 50,000 followers on Facebook, was live-streaming the protest on the website when he was hit.
A Yellow Vest activist holds an image of Jerome on a large placard which says ‘Soutien Jermoe’ – Support Jerome – who has become a symbol of this week’s protests
A scooter and a bin are set alight by protesters during heavy clashes on the Place de la Republique in Paris
Protesters react as tear gas canisters are thrown by police at Place de la Republique
Protesters hold a banner reading ‘Is it a revolt ? No sire, its a revolution’ in reference to words allegedly said by French King Louis XVI in 1789
But junior interior minister Laurent Nunez said there was ‘no indication’ that his injuries had been caused by such a projectile.
Rodrigues said he had agreed with Drouet to launch a ‘call for calm’ while at the same time pressing on and strengthening the protests ‘without violence’.
‘I will not stop, I will be back at the demonstrations as soon as my health permits me,’ he said.
The CGT labour union and the Human Rights League NGO had filed the complaint seeking a ban on the weapons, which shoot 40-millimeter rubber projectiles that are considered non-lethal.
Their representatives argued this week that the rubber bullets had been fired some 9,200 times since the anti-government protests began, causing severe injuries in many cases.
The Desarmons-Les (Disarm Them) collective, which campaigns against police violence, claims that 20 protesters have lost an eye from the devices.
Such weapons are prohibited for use in riot control in most Western European countries.
Yellow Vests demonstrators walk away after tear gas grenades which were fired at them in Valence, southern France – authorities in the region anticipated 10,000 protestors
Yellow Vest protestors hold a banner depicting a riot policeman with a gun – yesterday a top administrative court ruled that police could continue using a rubber bullet launcher blamed for dozens of injuries during the Yellow Vest protests
Tear gas fills the air in Valence – security officials were deployed their to deal with up to 1,000 potential trouble makers, as it was expected to be one of the more violent locations
A protester with a fake eye injury, takes part in the march as Rodrigues has called for peaceful protests to mark the 1,900 injures since the start of the demonstrations
Eric Drouet, another Yellow Vests leader, said the incident justified ‘a mass uprising without precedent by all useful and necessary means.’
Protesters have been joined by extremists from the far Right and the ultra-Left, as well as anarchists intent on causing as much damage as possible.
The independent Mr Macron, leader of the Republic On The Move party, won the French presidential election in a landslide in 2017, but he is now dubbed the ‘President of the Rich’ with polls showing his popularity rating struggling to get above 30 per cent.
Today’s ugly scenes are typical of ugly scenes that have regularly reduced Paris and other towns and cities around Paris to a war zone.
People take part in a march holding a banner to protest police brutality – particularly the use by riot police of both 40-millimetre rubber defensive bullet launcher LBD and GLI-F4 stun grenades
Protesters hold a placard depicting the French Interior Minister reading ‘our mission is to protect and serve tax-dodgers’ and another depicting the French Government’s spokesperson and reading ‘our mission is to discredit the Yellow Vest movement’
A wounded protester with a poster reading ‘Here is the truth’ attends the yellow vests demonstration
Yellow Vest activists hold a banner filled with a collage constructed of images of those injured in the protests and a sign which says, ‘United and Worthy of Oppression’
There were 5,000 police and gendarmes standing by for trouble in the French capital today, and it started in the late afternoon when a march got close to Place de la Republicque.
‘Macron Resign’, the crowd chanted, as they threw bottles and anything else they could find at police.
Huge white clouds of tear gas were smothering the area, covering rioters, as well as tourists.
By 4pm there had been around 15 arrests in the Paris areas, many of them of suspected rioters carrying potential weapons, and for violent disorder.
Rodrigues, 40, has bravely taken to the streets again this weekend after he suffered the life-changing injury.
Several hundreds of demonstrators gathered at midday on a plaza in eastern Paris to join Rodrigues and chanted anti-government slogans as they headed toward the Republic plaza, in the northeast of the city centre.
The French government has insisted there was ‘no indication’ he was injured by a police projectile.
The government warned – after the top court’s ruling – there would be no hesitation to use ‘flashballs’ again this weekend – referring to the 40-mm (1.6-inch) rubber projectiles used by French riot police.
‘It’s true that this intermediate weapon can hurt, but faced with rioters, the police need it to defend themselves against those who attack them,’ said Interior Minister Christophe Castaner.
A protester wearing a Yellow Vest holds a placard at the Place de la Bastille depicting the French President Emmanuel Macron and reading ‘Hate’
Hundreds of Yellow Vest protesters march through the rue Sainte-Catherine in Bordeaux on Saturday morning waving tricolore flags
A protester shouts during the yellow vests demonstration as her face – like many others in attendance – is painted with blood to mark those injured in the demos
Opinion polls show a recovery in Macron’s battered popularity rating after he launched consultations, including town hall debates, to try to quell social unrest, but thousands have again taken to the streets this week
Eric Drouet, one of the leading figures of the ‘Yellow Vest’ (gilet jaune) movement, is seen at the start of a march, he said the injury to Rodrigues was a ‘homicide attempt’
Yellow Vest protesters wear yellow eye patches with a target and a droplet of blood depicted on to show solidarity with their leader Rodrigues
But the Council of State said that the threat of violence during the yellow vest protests being held on Saturdays in Paris and other cities rendered their use by police necessary.
‘Contrary to what the applicants claimed, the organisation of operations to maintain order during the recent demonstrations did not indicate any intention by the authorities not to respect the strict rules governing the use’ of such ‘less-lethal weapons,’ the court said.
Use of the specialised ‘defence ball launchers’ (LBDs) ‘is particularly appropriate for responding to these types of situations, as long as the rules governing their use are respected,’ it said.
The government has defended the police use of both rubber bullets and stun grenades as necessary to guard against violent individuals among the yellow vests activists who have repeatedly attacked security forces.
‘These less-lethal weapons are essential, they allow us to keep protesters and rioters at a distance, or to approach them for arrest without having to use weapons that can kill,’ junior Interior Minister Laurent Nunez told RTL radio ahead of the court’s ruling on Friday.
However last Saturday the government started equipping police using the weapons with body cameras, to potentially provide evidence in case of claims of injuries.
The 12th round of protests has rallied again on the streets of Paris, Nantes, Bordeaux, Toulouse and Marseille against the government of President Emmanuel Macron and his pro-business economic policies.
He is seen by many as out of touch with the concerns of rural and small-town France.
Last week Macron accused British politicians of ‘tearing society apart’ by allowing a Brexit referendum in Britain.
Despite a range of concessions by Mr Macron including scrapping green taxes of diesel and petrol, the Vests – who are named after their high visibility motoring jackets – continue to call for him to step down.
A yellow vests demonstrator holds a poster calling for an end to the use of rubber bullets in Marseille, southern France
It was announced this week that MPs in Macron’s Republic on the Move party are seeking more severe penalties for organisers of unauthorised demonstrations and for people covering their faces during violent protests.
Rodrigues, one of the leaders of the the Yellow Vests movement, lies on the ground after he was injured in the eye during clashes between protesters and riot police last weekend
Yellow vest activist Rodrigues was injured during Paris a protest and was bandaged up and taken to hospital where he was put into an induced coma for surgery on his eye
A protester waves a French flag atop a fountain on the Place Felix Eboue in Paris early on Saturday
The marches involving a ‘wall of shame’ are honouring more than 1,900 people injured since the protests began in November, according to official figures.
Lawmakers are debating a bill aimed at cracking down on the vandalism and violence that has marred the yellow vest movement, including clashes with police and the torching of dozens of cars.
MPs in Macron’s Republic on the Move party are seeking more severe penalties for organisers of unauthorised demonstrations and for people covering their faces during violent protests.
About 1,000 police officers have been injured along with the demonstrators since the start of the protests, according to official figures.
Opinion polls show a recovery in Macron’s battered popularity rating after he launched consultations, including townhall debates, to try to quell social unrest.
A Harris Interactive poll of 1,000 people on Friday showed Macron gaining four percentage points since December taking him to a 35 percent approval rating.