France's Yellow Vests take to streets again – condemning injuries, blaming police
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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.
This week, demonstrators in the French capital paid homage to those injured in the past months, denouncing the use of flashball riot control guns banned in much of Europe.
Between 10,000 and 13,800 protested in the capital according to police and independent media estimates. Riot police used tear gas to disperse some protesters who set bins and a scooter alight, although the situation remained relatively calm compared to previous weekends. Thousands also took to the streets in cities, including Tours, Valence, Marseille and Bordeaux.
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 road incidents related to yellow vest actions.
Several hundreds of demonstrators gathered at midday on a plaza in eastern Paris. Chanting anti-government slogans, they were heading toward the Place de la République, in the northeast of the city center.
Among them, Jerome Rodrigues, a prominent member of the movement who suffered an eye injury last week, was widely applauded by the crowd.
A French police investigation was still ongoing 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 seeking to disperse them.
France's Council of State ruled Friday that security forces have a right to use controversial high-velocity rubber ball launchers for crowd control.
Benjamin Cauchy, a Yellow Vest spokesman from southern France who came to the Paris protest, called it a "regrettable decision" on BFM television, saying the weapon "is extremely harmful, imprecise and in the end is causing more sorrow than security".
The Council of State noted the frequency of violence and property destruction at protests, some of which deviated from approved routes or weren't declared in advance. It concluded that authorities' use of the devices doesn't constitute a "grave attack" on the freedom to demonstrate, or the right not to be exposed to inhuman or degrading treatment.
Around 69,000 people nationwide took part in protests last week, down from more than 80,000 during the previous two weekends, according to the French interior ministry. The movement was named after the fluorescent safety vests that French motorists must carry in case of emergency.
(FRANCE 24 with AP and REUTERS)
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