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.
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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.
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