French Yellow Vest Anti-Government Protests Turn Violent in Paris

February 9, 2019 Updated: February 9, 2019

PARIS—A French yellow vest protester’s hand was ripped apart on Feb. 9, during violent clashes in Paris as demonstrators tried to storm the French National Assembly in a 13th consecutive week of unrest.

Police said the injured protester lost four fingers as police swooped in to stop protesters from breaching the parliament’s exterior. Police could not confirm French media reports that the hand of the demonstrator, who is now being treated in the hospital, was blown up by a grenade used to disperse unruly crowds.

As scuffles broke out in front of the National Assembly and French police responded with tear gas, paramedics huddled around the injured protester at the National Assembly gates.

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Riot police run past burning dustbins set on fire by yellow vest protesters as they keep pressure on French President Emmanuel Macron’s government, for the 13th straight weekend of demonstrations, in Paris, France, on Feb. 9, 2019. (Kamil Zihnioglu/AP Photo)

Police used batons and fired tear gas in Paris to disperse demonstrators, some of whom threw debris at riot police. Cars, motorbikes, and trash bins were set ablaze as the protest moved toward the city’s Invalides monument and onto the Eiffel Tower.

French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner went to Twitter to express his “disgust” as protesters set alight an anti-terror military car. Its yellow smoking plumes, against the backdrop of the Eiffel Tower, made for a powerful image of rejecting authority.

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Yellow vest protesters run away from tear gas fired by riot police as they keep pressure on French President Emmanuel Macron’s government, for the 13th straight weekend of demonstrations, during a demonstration in Paris, France, on Feb. 9, 2019. (Kamil Zihnioglu/AP Photo)

Such vehicles have been a common sight in Paris since deadly extremist attacks in 2015.

“Every day the military … protects our compatriots from the risk of terrorism. These attacks are intolerable,” Castaner said.

Police said 31 demonstrators had been arrested in the unrest. But France’s Interior Ministry said this week’s protest was significantly smaller than last week’s.

The yellow vest activists, who have brought hundreds of thousands onto the streets over the past three months, are now trying to achieve electoral success but the movement is politically divided and has no appointed leader.

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Yellow vest protesters walk down the famed Champs Elysees avenue to keep pressure on French President Emmanuel Macron’s government, for the 13th straight weekend of demonstrations, in Paris, France, on Feb. 9, 2019. (Kamil Zihnioglu/AP Photo)

French President Emmanuel Macron—the target of many demonstrators’ anger—tried to claw back support from the public by addressing the movement’s anger with a national political debate on economic injustice.

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French President Emmanuel Macron gestures during a meeting as part of the “great national debate” in Evry-Courcouronnes, on Feb. 4, 2019. (Ludovic Marin/AFP/Getty Images)

Earlier Saturday, activists in Latvia staged a picket in front of the French embassy in Riga, the capital of the small Baltic EU country, to support the yellow vest movement and urge Latvians to demand higher living standards.

The activists waved Latvia’s red-and-white flag, shouting slogans like “the French have woken up, while Latvians remain asleep.”

By Thomas Adamson

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