Published On: Tue, Aug 27th, 2019

Macron vows to ‘eradicate’ protest violence following chaotic yellow vest riots | World | News

The French President said he wanted “to progressively eradicate the great violence” that marred the protest movement. The French “do not want chaos,” he continued, adding that violent demonstrators, namely far-right, anarchist and anti-capitalist militants like the so-called black blocs, had hijacked and “distorted” the once-peaceful rebellion. France’s yellow vest movement erupted in mid-November as a grassroots protest against planned fuel tax hikes, but rapidly morphed into a broader, sometimes violent revolt against inequality and Mr Macron, widely seen as arrogant and indifferent to the daily struggles of ordinary citizens.

While the movement has all but fizzled out, the weekly Saturday rallies have continued to attract a hard-core group of demonstrators.

The 41-year-old leader also commented on the widespread allegations of police brutality against yellow vests, admitting that his government would “change tactics” in a bid to “ensure the safety of demonstrators” and “reduce the number of injuries”.

The heavy-handed tactics used by riot police to contain the protests have come under intense scrutiny, especially the use of “flash ball” riot guns and sting-ball grenades, which have caused serious injuries.

At least 23 people have lost an eye since the start of the unrest, according to Desarmons-Les, a support group for those maimed in the rallies. 

In addition, five yellow vests lost a hand, one had a testicle amputated, another lost his sense of smell, while a dozen more were badly wounded. 

France’s interior ministry has put the number of yellow vests injured at around 2,400, and the number of police injuries at around 1,800.

Both the United Nations and the European Parliament have condemned the French police for the apparent use of excessive force during the anti-government rallies.

And the IGPN – the body that investigates police abuses – has launched more than 200 investigations into the conduct of police officers.

France’s interior minister Christophe Castaner has repeatedly defended the way in which police behaved at the rallies, but in June ordered a review of the police tactics used to control protests. 

Mr Castaner told a hand-picked panel of some 15 experts, who include a prosecutor, a sociologist and security figures: “I want to hear what you think about the use of force, about the arms we use and what some call ‘police violence’.”

He then urged: “I need your ideas to respond strongly to unbridled violence while protecting” even those who have committed “these excesses”.

But Mr Castaner insisted he did not expect riot police to revert to softly-softly methods.

He said: “We are not going to respond to Molotov cocktails with nice feelings and we are not going to protect the order of the Republic with soft words.” 

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