30 Jan, 2019
The French government won’t stop the Yellow Vests by force, but only by doing what the people demand, according to prominent protester Jerome Rodrigues, who may remain blind in one eye after being injured by the police.
“The president [Emmanuel Macron] declared war on us and our injuries are battle wounds. The traumatic weapons are equipped with collimators [optical sights] – such equipment is used on the battlefield, at war,” Rodrigues told RT.
“I never thought that such a thing could happen in France,” he added, describing what the country has been going through in recent months as “dark times.”
The activist, who calls himself “a hyper pacifist,” was broadcasting live on Facebook from a rally in Paris last weekend when a police officer fired at him from an LBD 40 non-lethal gun. A projectile hit him in the eye, leading to hospitalization and a medically induced coma. The man said “there are no guarantees that the injured eye will be able to see again.”
“Now we understand that by going to a rally we put ourselves at risk of becoming victims of the government. It happened to me, but could’ve well happened to anyone,” Rodrigues said.
The French authorities are employing violence to scare the people off the streets, but “we won’t retreat,” he said. Rodrigues promised to resume protesting after he gets better, saying that his family fully supported him in this decision.
However, Rodrigues pointed out that “becoming a symbol of violence” isn’t what he wanted.
I want to maintain my peaceful line. We must restrain our anger and expand our cause, but remain non-violent and call for peace… A good rally is the one when everybody returns home safe.
If Macron’s government wants the protests to end and “the people to return home they must give us what we ask for. I’m talking about a decrease in taxes on essential goods; the restoration of democracy, which must happen through referendums initiated by the citizens; withdrawal of privileges for the political leadership; and finally, the mutilated people must receive their apologies,” he said.
The activist also replied to Secretary of State to the Interior Minister Laurent Nunez, who claimed that there was no proof of Rodrigues being injured by a non-lethal police gun. The incident wasn’t among the 32 cases of LBD 40 use recorded by police cams, he said.
But the Yellow Vest insisted that minutes before he was hit in the eye he “saw a police officer armed with traumatic weapons, with no camera on him.”
As for the evidence, there’s the projectile that hit him in the eye and numerous videos of the incident filmed from various angles by other protestors, Rodriguez said.
The Yellow Vest movement, named after the high-visibility jackets worn by the demonstrators, ignited in November over a government-proposed hike in fuel taxes. But it quickly morphed into wider discontent with Macron’s economic agenda and a decline in living standards.
Thousands of people have been protesting on Saturdays and Sundays in Paris and other French cities for 11 weeks in a row now. The rallies often got out of control as the demonstrators destroyed property, torched cars, blocked roads and clashed with police. The authorities have not hesitated to apply violence against the rioters, putting tear gas, water cannons and non-lethal guns to use and seriously injuring dozens of people.