A prominent anti-government “yellow vest” activist was badly injured in the eye after being hit by a rubber bullet used by the French police, his lawyer has said.
Philippe de Veulle, the lawyer of Jerome Rodrigues, fears he will be disabled for life following the injury in clashes with the police in Paris on Saturday during the 11th straight weekend of protests against President Emmanuel Macron.
“He is in shock. He will be handicapped for life. It is a tragedy for him and his family,” the lawyer told French news station BFM TV, adding that he was going to lodge a complaint against the police.
Rodrigues was placed in an artificial coma overnight after the incident at the Bastille monument in central Paris.
The bearded Rodrigues, who has become a well-known figure in the “yellow vest” movement with 50,000 followers on Facebook, was live-streaming images of the protest on the website when he was hit.
De Veulle said Rodrigues was struck with a “flashball”, referring to the 40mm rubber projectiles used by French anti-riot police.
The use of riot-control guns using rubber bullets as the ammunition has become quite controversial in France, where it has been blamed for dozens of serious injuries since the protests began in November.
On Saturday, police armed with anti-riot guns were for the first time deployed with body cameras in a bid to increase transparency.
Speaking to a local news channel from the hospital, Rodrigues said he was also hit by a “stingball” grenade, another controversial riot-control device.
“Everything happened very quickly. They threw a grenade at me and I took a [rubber] bullet. I was attacked twice – a grenade to the foot and the bullet,” Rodrigues said.
He accused the police of carrying out “all the violence the rules allow”.
Witnesses picked up the projectile that struck Rodrigues. Police were set to investigate the circumstances of the incident.
Originally sparked by an increase in fuel taxes, the “yellow vest” protests quickly snowballed into a widespread revolt over accusations that Macron, an ex-banker, is out of touch with rural and small-town France.
Named after the emblematic luminous road safety vests worn by protesters, the demonstrations have drawn tens of thousands of people to the streets.
But their numbers have eased in recent weeks after Macron announced a series of policy climbdowns and launched a two-month consultation to allow people to vent their anger.
The interior ministry estimated that 69,000 turned out across France on Saturday, compared with 84,000 a week earlier.