PARIS: A “yellow vest” demonstrator lost his hand on Saturday during clashes outside the main parliament building in Paris , witnesses said, during a 13th weekend of anti-government protests across France.
Despite a drop in numbers from the massive turnouts of the first demonstrations in November, thousands still turned out in cities across the country to protest against French President Emmanuel Macron’s policies.
Clashes broke out outside the National Assembly building in Paris after a march from the Champs-Elysees arrived there.
While many demonstrators marched peacefully, some masked activists tried to break down barriers outside the parliament while others urinated outside.
Masked men threw projectiles at police, who responded with tear gas and stun grenades.
As the march continued on its way towards Boulevard Saint Michel, vandals targeted bus shelters, cars and shop windows along the route.
Volunteer medics at the National Assembly said that a man had had his hand ripped off during the clashes between police and protesters.
One witness who filmed the incident, 21-year-old Cyprien Royer, said it had been caused by a flash-ball grenade fired by police to disperse the crowd.
Royer said the victim was a yellow jacket photographer “taking photos of people trying to break down the barriers protecting the entrance to the National Assembly”, at around midday.
“When the cops went to disperse people, he got hit by a flash-ball grenade in the calf,” he added. “He wanted to bat it away so it didn’t explode by his leg and it went off when he touched it.
“We put him to one side and called the street medics. It wasn’t pretty: he was screaming with pain, he had no fingers — he didn’t have much above the wrist,” he said.
Paris police confirmed that a demonstrator injured in the hand been treated by paramedics, but did not elaborate. By 2pm officers had arrested 10 people, they added.
“We mustn’t give up,” said pensioner Serge Mairesse, from Aubervilliers, just outside Paris. This was the 11th time he had marched with the movement, he said.
“We have to win to have more social and fiscal justice in this country,” said Mairesse, who was carrying a placard calling for the reimposition of a wealth tax on high earners repealed by Macron.
Thousands more protesters turned out in the French Mediterranean ports of Marseille and Montpellier and also in Bordeaux and Toulouse in the southwest — strongholds of the movements — and in several cities in the north and west of France.
Interior ministry figures issued at 2pm put the turnout across France at 12,100, of whom 4,000 marched in Paris, down on the previous week’s figures.
But last week’s official estimates were disputed both by march organisers and an independent estimate carried out for news media.
The first yellow vest day of protest in November brought 282,000 people out on to the streets across France, according to government figures.
But a YouGov poll of 1,037 people issued on Thursday suggested that nearly two out of three people in France (64 per cent) still support the movement.