The vicious crackdown on Yellow Vests you haven’t heard about

The vicious crackdown on Yellow Vests you haven’t heard about, by Fraser Myers.

France’s yellow-vest movement shows no sign of stopping. After a dip in numbers during the holiday period, according to government estimates, 84,000 gilets jaunes took to the streets in towns and cities across France last Saturday for the ninth weekend of demonstrations. …

There has certainly been violent clashes, vandalism and disruption, with some yellow-vest protesters burning cars, smashing windows and, in one case, breaking into a government ministry with a forklift truck. Nearly 60 per cent of the speed cameras in France have been vandalised by yellow vests in protest against lower speed limits on motorways.

Nevertheless, the police response has been wholly disproportionate. The vast majority of gilets jaunes are peaceful but are still forced to dodge tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon in order to exercise their democratic right to protest. …

Worse still, there have been numerous documented cases of police violence causing horrific, life-changing injuries. In particular, there is a great deal of concern about the police’s use of ‘Flashballs’. France is the only country in the EU that hasn’t outlawed the use of these semi-rigid rubber bullets. …

Analysing news reports and social media, the newspaper Libération estimates that 82 gilets jaunes have been seriously injured by police, of whom 60 said they were hit by Flashballs. Some protesters have lost limbs and have broken bones — around a dozen people have lost an eye.

Independent journalist David Dufresne has been collating videos of police violence and photos of serious injuries, tweeting them to the interior ministry. At the time of writing, he has tweeted 288 incidents. One video shows police shooting an unarmed protester holding his arms outstretched. Another shows a gang of policemen beating up an elderly woman. …

In an interview with Nouvel Obs, Dufresne says that instead of diffusing tensions, the French police are caught ‘in a logic of escalation and confrontation’. ‘Not a single one of those who has been seriously injured presented a threat’, he says. Besides, the law-and-order response does not solve the underlying issues: ‘Every Saturday, people will carry on protesting, knowing that they could lose an eye.’ For Dufresne, the government must offer a ‘political, social and economic’ response, not repression.

via Tip of the Spear