French yellow vest protesters back on the streets, condemn injuries, blame police

Police officers try to remove a scooter from a fire set up by demonstrators on the Place de la Republique after a yellow vest protest, Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019 in Paris. France's yellow vest protesters were back on the streets Saturday to keep pressure on French President Emmanuel Macron's government and denounce the large number of people injured in demonstrations they say is the result of police violence. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

By SYLVIE CORBET,  Associated Press   PARIS (AP) 02/02 — France’s yellow vest protesters were back on the streets Saturday to keep up the pressure on French President Emmanuel Macron’s government and to decry the number of people being injured by police during the anti-government demonstrations.

Multiple protests in Paris and other cities denounced Macron’s economic policies, which they view as favoring the rich, for the 12th straight weekend of demonstrations. Most were peaceful.

In Paris, scuffles broke out between some protesters and police around the Republic plaza, northeast of the city center, where hundreds of demonstrators headed on Saturday afternoon. Police managed to disperse most of the crowd.

Some clashes between protesters and police also took place in the southern cities of Bordeaux, Toulouse and Valence.

Thousands of demonstrators in the French capital paid tribute to the yellow vests who have been injured during clashes with police in an effort to unite the movement despite growing divisions. Several competing groups of yellow vests are getting ready to present candidates for the European Parliament election in May, while other figures insist the movement must remain non-political.

Police officers charge demonstrators after a yellow vest protest, Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019 in Paris. France’s yellow vest protesters were back on the streets Saturday to keep pressure on French President Emmanuel Macron’s government and denounce the large number of people injured in demonstrations they say is the result of police violence. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

 

The government says around 2,000 people have been injured in protests since the movement began Nov. 17, including at least four serious eye injuries. Separately, 10 people have died in traffic accidents related to yellow vest actions.

Franck Dideron, 20, said he was protesting peacefully, speaking on the phone to his mother, when his eye was injured by a rubber bullet fired by police during a Dec. 1 protest near the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

“The policeman shot me voluntarily. And I was just turning around — how was that violent behavior? How was I dangerous for him?” he asked The Associated Press. “Today, I would like to see this policeman come and stand in front of me, look me in the eye and tell me why he shot me.”

Jerome Rodrigues, a prominent member of the movement who suffered an eye injury last week, was widely applauded by the crowd Saturday.

A French police investigation is still trying to determine how Rodrigues was injured. Video images show Rodriguez collapsed on the ground last Saturday near the Bastille monument, where protesters throwing projectiles clashed with police.

Demonstrators set a fire on the Place de la Republique after a yellow vest protest, Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019 in Paris. France’s yellow vest protesters were back on the streets Saturday to keep pressure on French President Emmanuel Macron’s government and denounce the large number of people injured in demonstrations they say is the result of police violence. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

 

Antonio Barbetta, a 40-year-old protester with injured foot, call the police response to the yellow vests “excessive.”

“I’m in contact with a large number of injured people and I can tell you that these were nonviolent people. I myself am against all forms of violence on either side,” he said.

France’s Council of State ruled Friday that security forces have a right to use controversial high-velocity rubber bullets for crowd control.

Benjamin Cauchy, a yellow vest spokesman from southern France who came to the Paris protest, called that a “regrettable decision.”

The weapon “is extremely harmful, imprecise and in the end is causing more sorrow than security,” he told BFM television.

The Council of State noted the frequency of violence and property destruction at the protests and concluded the devices are not a “grave attack” on the freedom to demonstrate and are not inhumane treatment.

Protesters hold a banner against the use of high-velocity rubber ball launchers for crowd control (LBD) during the yellow vests demonstration Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019 in Paris. France’s yellow vest protesters are taking to the streets to keep pressure on French President Emmanuel Macron’s government and denounce the high number of people injured in demonstrations that they consider as the result of police violence.. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

 

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner tweeted Friday that “if the law was respected, there would be no injured.”

The French parliament is debating a bill to strengthen measures against troublemakers who use protests to attack police. Rights groups and opposition lawmakers, however, say it goes too far in restricting the right to protest.

The bill could let local prefects prevent people they see as a serious threat to public order from taking part in protests. It could also make it a crime for protesters to conceal their faces.

Around 69,000 people nationwide took part in French protests last week, down from more than 80,000 the previous two weekends, according to the French Interior Ministry.

The yellow vests movement began in November and was named after the fluorescent safety vests that French motorists must carry.

___

Alexander Turnbull and Milos Krivokapic contributed to the story.

https://www.apnews.com/41d5d485e04c4c248c43cd5fd9ab7c7a

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Posted in: Arrests, Civilian Complaints, Injuries, International Policing, Protests/Civil Unrest

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