Yellow vests condemn police violence

Yellow vests condemn police violence

France’s “yellow-vest” protesters have condemned the police use of rubber bullets, donning eye patches in solidarity with demonstrators who have lost eyes. Others have suffered fractured jaws.

Leading protester Jérôme Rodrigues endured a serious eye injury in Paris.

“They shoot at the population with a weapon of war,” the 39-year-old former salesman who is training to become a plumber told a rally. “Is that what France is like today? We just want to fill the fridge and we end up losing an eye.”

Riot police have used LBD launchers or “flash-balls” and they were in use when Rodrigues was hit, according to the authorities.

A French court ruled last week that the police could continue using the riot guns because of the threat of violence. Around 1,000 officers have been wounded since rioting started on November 17.

Thousands took part in Saturday’s marches across France and organisers said they wanted an end to the “disproportionate use of force designed to silence the protesters”.

A march of “the wounded” in Paris saw protesters wear eye patches in solidarity with those injured.

On December 12, horticulturist Jean-Marc Michaud was hit by a rubber ball and is now blind in his right eye.

“If the police blamed me for something, all they had to do was shoot me in the legs to immobilise me and stop me,” the 41-year-old said.

The former paratrooper said he had marched down the Champs-Elysées with pride in France during a July 14 military parade in the late 1990s. But now the same boulevard saw “LBD shots hurt innocent people every Saturday”, Michaud said.

“I don’t know how I will pay for my reconstructive surgeries and I’m no longer proud of France,” he said.

The LBD40 is supposed to be a non-lethal weapon that shoots semi-rigid 40mm rubber or foam rounds at around 100 metres per second. The cartridge is meant to distort upon impact and not break the skin.

A victims’ lawyer, Étienne Noël, said officers had insufficient training in using the riot guns, asking why so many victims had been hit in the head.

Last month, Olivier Beziade, a volunteer firefighter at a “gilets jaunes” protest in Bordeaux was shot in the head and was in a coma for six days.

The European Court of Human Rights rejected a move to ban the LBD40 riot gun in December.

The movement staged its protests for a 12th Saturday in a row this weekend, with some saying they wanted to force 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 protesting near the Place de la Bastille.

Questions have been repeatedly asked about the police conduct. Picture credit: Wikimedia

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