THE FATHER of the Yellow Vest protester who had his hand blown off by a gas grenade in Paris on Saturday says he plans a lawsuit, while his comrade says it is symbolic that the injury took place outside the National Assembly.
‘He has no hand left below the wrist,’ Bernard Maillet, father of Sebastien Maillet, said an interview in a Paris studio, adding that his son also sustained an eye injury and does not fully remember the traumatic incident.
‘We plan to lodge a complaint, and we will see what happens from there,’ he said.
An activist who goes under the name Boudjema, and who was protesting alongside Maillet, said that the injury – one of hundreds sustained since the protests began in November – ‘concerns all the Yellow Vests.’
‘Sebastien was merely exercising his legal right to demonstrate. Now he has lost his hand.
‘He is a plumber, he needed it for his everyday life and his job,’ he said, sitting alongside Maillet’s father.
‘It is symbolic that he lost it in front of the National Assembly – the house that represents the people. Yet there hasn’t been a word from the authorities,’ he added.
While details of the incident are still being investigated, the clash occurred when a group of Yellow Vests outnumbered a police unit next to France’s lower chamber of parliament.
The police responded by launching tear gas grenades, one of which, according to eyewitnesses, either landed near Maillet, or was picked up by him and it exploded.
There are 133 ongoing judicial inquiries over incidents that have occurred at demonstrations.
Boudjema thinks it’s no accident that the violence continues despite President Emmanuel Macron’s attempt to pacify protesters with a ‘national debate.’
‘The national disturbances and anger are still growing throughout the land,’ Boudjema said, adding that a demonstration to honour Maillet is scheduled today (Wednesday).
There were more violent clashes in France over the weekend as the Yellow Vest protest movement entered its thirteenth week.
The numbers were as many as 100 thousand and the confrontations were intense.
In the south of France police blocked yellow vest leader Maxime Nicolle from crossing into Italy to join forces with Italian demonstrators.
‘The governments of France and Italy have their differences,’ he said.
‘But between the French people and the Italian people there is no problem.’
However he distanced himself from the support of Italian deputy prime minister Luigi Di Maio, saying politicians were backing a movement about which they know nothing.
Police responded with tear gas after Yellow Vest protesters tried to break through the barrier in front of the National Assembly.
Vehicles were set alight, windows smashed during the 13th consecutive week of protests.
The demonstration came days after the National Assembly passed an ‘anti-hooligan’ bill targeting the ‘Yellow Vest’ movement. The bill makes it illegal for protesters to conceal their faces in a bid to make it easier to ‘identify and prosecute rioters’.
Italian Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio has defended his controversial meeting with Yellow Vests protesters, which prompted Paris to recall the French ambassador from Rome and sparked a crisis in bilateral ties.
Di Maio, of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, said on Sunday it was ‘legitimate’ for him to meet a group of French protesters who were about to stand in May’s European Parliament elections.
Speaking to reporters in Milan, he mocked French President Emmanuel Macron for treating the meeting as a crime of offending the royalty, and said, ‘I’m sorry that Macron lived this as a bit lese-majeste.’
Relations between France and Italy sank to a new low last week when Paris recalled its ambassador, citing meddling in domestic affairs after Di Maio met with senior figures of the Yellow Vests movement in France.
The French Foreign Ministry on Thursday asked the envoy to return for consultations, and called the meeting a ‘provocation.’
It said the meeting had come after ‘repeated accusations, unfounded attacks, and outlandish claims’ by Rome.
France has recalled its ambassador from Rome because the Italian leader met with French ‘Yellow Vest’ protesters.
The remarks, which it called ‘unprecedented’ since the end of World War II, featured De Maio’s fellow deputy prime minister, Matteo Salvini, calling Macron a ‘terrible president’ in a Facebook video last month, and likewise publicly supporting the protesters.
‘The opportunity will come on May 26 (the election day) when finally, the French people will be able to take back control of their future, destiny, (and) pride, which are poorly represented by a character like Macron,’ Salvini said in the video.
Di Maio even said his meeting with the activists was aimed at preparing a common front for elections in May, while boasting on Twitter that ‘the wind of change has crossed the Alps.’
The Yellow Vests demonstrations, which have daunted Paris with their size, have been denouncing high living costs and alleged lack of government care for rural areas
Political commentator Pauline Bock has argued Emmanuel Macron has ‘forgotten the only reason he won the position of President of France in the last elections is that he ran against anti-immigration candidate Marine Le Pen’.
Bock claimed the French President believes his electorate agreed to his policies but the Yellow Vest movement is proof a lot of people in France do not see things eye-to-eye with him.
She said: ‘The Yellow Vests did not see themselves in any of the politics in France.
‘What they disagree with started with the fiscal change in France and about the inequality in France and it all goes back to the markets.
‘It goes back to the fact that there are some profits but they’re always to the same people.
‘Emmanuel Macron did not get the support of all the French people.
‘He was democratically elected but he was elected against Marine Le Pen and that is a big thing that he’s forgotten and a lot of other people have forgotten.
‘He believes that he’s been elected to implement his programme, but he’s been elected because he was facing Marine Le Pen.
‘And he’s rolled out his reforms as if everyone agreed with what he was doing and it is very liberal and it is very pro-market and pro-business.
‘But a lot of people don’t see themselves in that and a lot of people have seen what becomes of years of austerity after there was a big economic crisis and now everyone says we need austerity.
‘That means less welfare and that means cuts everywhere and they disagree with that and that’s what led to the Yellow Vests.
‘And you cannot just say “let’s go on with austerity because it’s the only thing we can do”.’
She warned Yellow Vests-like movements around Europe will continue to pop up in protest against EU austerity measures as a solution to temporary economic crises.
She added: ‘To me, this is the basis not just of the French system but of a lot of European systems and they have been dismantled for a long time now.’