A “yellow vest” protester in France had his fingers ripped off during clashes at the parliament building in Paris, as the protests went into their 13th week.
The protester attempted to pick up a rubber pellet grenade and it exploded in his hand, French media reported.
There was also an arson attack on the home of the head of France’s National Assembly, though it was not clear if the attack was linked to the protests.
The “yellow vest” protests began in mid-November over fuel taxes.
They have since broadened into a revolt against the President, Emmanuel Macron, and a political class seen as out of touch with common people.
According to French government figures, 51,400 people joined the protests on Saturday, 4,000 of them in Paris. That was down from the previous week, when official figures put the number at 58,600, 10,500 in Paris.
Representatives for the yellow vests disputed the previous week’s numbers, claiming the turnout was higher.
In Paris on Saturday, the protesters marched from the Champs-Elysees to the city’s parliament buildings, where a violent contingent broke down barriers and threw projectiles at police. Police responded with tear gas and anti-riot munitions.
According to an eyewitness, the person who lost their hand was a photographer attempting to take pictures of people breaking down barriers around the National Assembly building.
“When the cops went to disperse people, he got hit by a sting-ball grenade in the calf,” 21-year-old Cyprien Royer told AFP news agency. “He wanted to bat it away so it didn’t explode by his leg and it went off when he touched it.
“We put him to one side and called the street medics. It wasn’t pretty: he was screaming with pain, he had no fingers – he didn’t have much above the wrist.”
Paris police confirmed that a demonstrator was injured in the hand and been treated by paramedics, but did not identify the victim.
Investigators are looking into the incident after police reportedly insisted Rodrigues’s injuries were caused by a crowd-control grenade that exploded near him, a version of events his lawyer “categorically” denied. Rodrigues was injured at Place de la Bastille on Saturday afternoon, during an 11th weekend of demonstrations by the gilets jaunes in Paris. Witnesses said the police used flash-balls, “sting-ball” crowd dispersal grenades and tear gas while protesters calling for the French president, EMMANUEL MACRON
to resign threw projectiles at them There have been calls for French police to be banned from using the flash-ball launchers, and last week the interior minister, Christophe Castaner, ordered officers carrying them to wear body cameras.
Witnesses were reported to have picked up the projectile that struck Rodrigues and handed it to investigators. Internal police investigators have launched an inquiry, as has the Paris prosecutor. More than 80 similar inquiries have been launched following serious injuries or legal complaints during gilets jaunesprotests.
Rodrigues’s lawyer, Philippe de Veulle, told BFM television: “He will be disabled for life. It’s a tragedy for him and his family.” De Veulle said he was lodging a complaint against police for “voluntary violence by a person of public authority” because Rodrigues was allegedly struck with one of the 40mm hard rubber projectiles.
On Sunday, Rodrigues, conscious and speaking to LCI television from hospital, said he was also hit by a sting-ball grenade, another controversial riot control tool used to disperse crowds.
“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,” he said. He accused police of carrying out “all the violence the rules permit”. “I’m going to take legal action against Mr Macron, Mr Castaner and against the police officer who shot at me … I remain firmly pacifist whatever happens.”
A “yellow night” event, organised by protesters at Place de la République in central Paris on Saturday evening, was broken up by police who used tear gas and water cannon.
The gilets jaunes movement started last November in protest over a proposed eco-tax on fuel, but has since grown to embody a wider expression of grievances against Macron and his centrist administration. It is named after the hi-vis vests French motorists must carry in their vehicles, and which the protesters wear.
The interior ministry estimated 69,000 people turned out for “act 11” of the protests across France on Saturday, compared with 84,000 the previous week. Protesters have not provided their own figures. Last week, a leading member of the movement, which has no official leaders or organisation behind it, announced it would field 79 candidates in May’s European parliament elections
On Sunday, an anti-gilets jaunesevent was organised to “defend democracy and (republican) institutions” in Paris. The marchers, calling themselves the “red scarves”, chanted “on a rien cassé” (we’ve not smashed anything). Others shouted “Yes to democracy, no to revolution” as they waved French and European Union flags. They said they were demonstrating against the violence at recent gilets jaunes protests, including attacks on politicians and journalists.
Laurent Soulie, an organiser of the march, said the protesters responded to a call to the “silent majority who have remained holed up at home for 10 weeks.”
Police estimated that despite the rain about 10,500 people turned out. The previous day, 4,000 gilets jaunes protested in Paris, police estimated.
People are tired of the roadblocks. They are bad for business, and children are prevented from getting to school on time,” red scarves spokesman Alex Brun told French broadcaster RFI.
Ahead of Sunday’s rally in Paris, the red scarves put out a joint statement with similar-minded groups.
“We denounce the insurrectional climate installed by the yellow vests. We also reject the threats and constant verbal abuse (aimed at non-yellow vests),” they announced in a joint manifesto.
However, according to French media a split has already emerged among the red scarves over whether or not to show support for President Macron.
One of the organisers of Sunday’s march, Laurent Soulié, has rallied supporters on Facebook to back the president, RFI reported.
Mr Brun, on the other hand, said the foulards rouges was “an apolitical citizens’ movement”. He said the best way to resolve problems caused by the yellow vests was to take part in Mr Macron’s “Grand Debate” rather than confronting protesters on the street.
Some red scarves leaders had urged members not to attend Sunday’s rally.
The Grand Debate involves town-hall meetings nationwide to address protesters’ concerns.
Across France, about 69,000 people took part in the 11th consecutive weekend of yellow-vest protests the interior ministry said. That is about 15,000 fewer than last weekend.
Matteo Salvini’s comments prior to elections increase tensions between countries
Tensions between Italy and France have deepened after the Italian deputy prime minister urged French people not to support EMMANUEL MACRON in forthcoming elections, provoking a withering response from Paris.
Matteo Salvini called on voters to shun the French president’s En Marche party in European parliamentary elections in May, prompting Nathalie Loisseau, France’s European affairs minister, to dismiss his comments as insignificant and insisting they would not trigger a “competition of the stupidest”.
In FRANCE they have a bad government and a bad president of the Republic,” Salvini, who also leads the far-right Northern League, wrote on Facebook. “Macron speaks about being welcoming, but then rejects immigrants at the border. The French people deserve better and the European elections of 26 May will provide a good signal.”
To stoke the fire further, Luca Morisi, Salvini’s social media strategist, posted a photo of the minister with Marine Le Pen, his French far-right counterpart who was defeated by Macron in the 2017 elections, on his Facebook page alongside the caption: “Matteo + Marine, Macron’s worst nightmare!” Salvini has forged a partnership with Le Pen as part of a nationalist drive to “save the real Europe” in the EU elections.
Salvini seized the opportunity to attack Macron after Luigi Di Maio, his coalition partner and leader of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, caused a storm by accusing France of creating poverty in Africa and causing mass migration to Europe. The Italian envoy in France, Teresa Castaldo, was summoned on Monday over what the French foreign ministry described as “hostile” remarks.
In response, Loisseau said the insults were “useless” and would have no effect on French policy. She said: “In France, we have an expression that says whatever is excessive is insignificant. When remarks are excessive … they are, therefore, insignificant.” She added she would not be visiting ITALIA until “the climate calms.”
Salvini also called on Macron to return 14 Italian fugitives living in France. It is the second time he has made the request since Cesare Battisti, a former leftwing guerrilla fighter convicted of four murders in the late 1970s, was extradited from South America last week after almost 40 years on the run. “I would like the French president to show the same good sense as [Brazilian president Jair] Bolsonaro did,” Salvini said.
Italy and France enjoyed good relations before the coalition came to power last June. Things got off to a bad start after Macron spoke about “populist leprosy” in a reported dig against the new government.
France and Germany are to sign a new treaty on Tuesday aimed at breathing new life into their place at the centre of the European Union.
As the UK moves to leave the EU and a rising tide of populism challenges the core liberal values of the bloc, the new treaty commits wholeheartedly to defending it.
There is rich symbolism in the signing in the German city of Aachen, which has changed hands over the centuries and is known in French as Aix-la-Chapelle.
But will it ultimately change anything?
What’s in the treaty?
In the draft, France and Germany agree to establish common positions and issue joint statements on major EU issues – formalising their existing co-operation. They also plan to act as a joint force at the United Nations.
From foreign policy to internal and external security, the two nations commit to coming up with common positions while seeking to bolster “Europe’s capacity to act autonomously”.
The two countries commit to:
Deepening economic integration with a Franco-German “economic zone”
Developing Europe’s military capabilities, investing together to “fill gaps in capacity, thereby reinforcing” the EU and Nato
Fostering in both armed forces a “common culture” and joint deployments as well as a Franco-German defence and security council
For young people, there is agreement to focus on cultural exchanges and increase learning of each other’s languages, with the aim of a Franco-German university.
There are also plans for closer cross-border links and greater “bilingualism” on both sides of the borders.
How ambitious is it?
Many of these aspirations have been heard before.
Exactly 56 years ago, the first Joint Declaration of Franco-German friendship was signed in Paris.
“Since then, the spirit of the 1963 treaty has been evoked time and again by different French and German governments,” says Dirk Leuffen, chair of Political Science and International Relations at the University of Konstanz.
Prof Leuffen believes there is no dramatic shift but instead “it continues or translates the old goals into today’s challenges”.
He singles out the economic plans as potentially signalling a next step of aligning the two countries more closely.
For Alistair Cole of Cardiff University, the importance of the treaty lies in its symbolism. In the context of a post-Brexit Europe he believes it is intended to “declare the centrality of France and Germany, though in practice the two countries often do not see eye to eye”.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she would sign the treaty “because we believe that the world has changed dramatically” since 1963, and things such as European integration were “not yet worked out” 56 years ago.
Is there much opposition to the pact?
Some EU member states feel the two countries already have too much power. Central and Eastern European states have refused to accept German and French leadership on migration.
“It is time to oppose the Franco-German axis with an Italian-Polish axis,” said Italy’s right-wing Interior Minister Matteo Salvini on the day the final treaty draft was announced.
He was speaking on a visit to Poland, aiming to challenge France and Germany’s dominance in the EU with a Eurosceptic alliance ahead of May elections to the European Parliament.
The treaty itself has been the subject of considerable fake news in France, with conspiracy theories about Mr Macron going to “sign over” territory as part of the deal.
One French MEP, former National Front member Bernard Monot, claimed in a video that the treaty would effectively cede the Alsace and Lorraine border regions to Germany.
The allegation spread quickly on social media, despite several debunking pieces in the mainstream news media – and the fact that Mr Monot deleted his video. He also claimed that the language of the two regions would be switched to German.
Far-right leader Marine Le Pen went as far as to accuse President Macron of going to Aachen on Tuesday to “essentially destroy what General de Gaulle had done, that is to say, lead France into the first league [of great nations]”.
Why Macron and Merkel care
By Jenny Hill, BBC News, Berlin
For Angela Merkel, history matters – her politics influenced by the legacy of Europe’s blood-stained 20th Century.
In Emmanuel Macron she has found a partner who shares an appreciation at least for the symbolic weight of the past. Think of the powerful moment as the two leaders embraced as they commemorated the dead of World War One.
No wonder they have chosen such a significant anniversary to launch, in effect, their plan to insulate Europe from its current period of instability.
Critics in Berlin say the treaty is short on substance and that, symbolic or not, the resurgence of a dominant Franco-German partnership risks spooking eastern EU states.
She will sign the treaty with one eye on how she’ll go down in the history books. The woman widely viewed as Europe’s de facto leader has after all presided over a series of damaging crises.
Sceptics point out she is unlikely to remain in post long enough to see all of the treaty’s pledges honoured.
Will the treaty change anything?
President Macron’s power has waned since he was elected in 2017 with a commitment to a series of pro-European measures, including a common budget for the eurozone.
Prof Cole believes the main issue is not the treaty but the “very uncertain future of Macron’s European reform programme”.
However, he believes there may be some movement towards a more integrated security and defence strategy and, more controversially, towards debt-sharing in the eurozone.
In the words of German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, the two countries “are joining forces to fight for a strong Europe that is capable of taking action, a peaceful world and a rules-based international order”.
It has cast more doubt on the Brexit process, and the leader of the opposition Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, has tabled a vote of no confidence in the government.
As well as Mr Tusk’s tweet, there has been plenty of comment on Tuesday’s vote from across Europe. Here are the key quotes:
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker warned that time was running out for the UK to strike a deal.
“I urge the United Kingdom to clarify its intentions as soon as possible. Time is almost up,” he said shortly after the result was announced.
“The risk of a disorderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom has increased with this evening’s vote,” he added.
The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said the UK had to decide on its approach.
“It’s now up to the British government to say what the next stage is,” he said. “The EU will remain united and determined to find a deal.”
German Finance Minister and Vice Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Tuesday was a “bitter day for Europe”.
“We are well prepared, but a hard Brexit would be the least attractive choice, for the EU and [UK],” he said.
Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the leader of the ruling Christian Democrat Union party, echoed this view.
“A hard Brexit will be the worst of all options,” she said.
Quick guide: What is a no-deal Brexit?
A “no-deal” Brexit is where the UK would cut ties with the European Union overnight without a transition period.
Theresa May’s government, and many others, believe this would be hugely damaging and want a more gradual withdrawal. But if Parliament can’t agree on that, and nothing else takes its place, the UK will leave without a deal.
This would mean the UK would not have to obey EU rules. Instead, it would need to follow World Trade Organization terms on trade. Many businesses would see new taxes on imports, exports and services, which are likely to increase their operating costs. That means the prices of some goods in UK shops could go up.
The UK would also lose the trade agreements it had with other countries as a member of the EU, all of which would need to be renegotiated alongside the new agreement with the EU itself.
Manufacturers in the UK expect to face delays in components coming across the border.
The UK would be free to set its own immigration controls. However some UK professionals working in the EU and UK expats could face uncertainty until their status was clarified. The European Commission has said that even in a no-deal scenario, UK travellers won’t need a visa for short visits of up to 90 days.
The border between Northern Ireland and the Irish republic would become an external frontier for the EU with customs and immigration controls, though how and where any checks would be made is not clear.
Some Leave supporters think that leaving without a deal would be positive if the right preparations were made. They say criticism is scaremongering and any short term pain would be for long term gain.
But critics – including both Brexit supporters and opponents – say that leaving without a deal would be a disaster for the UK: driving up food prices, leading to shortages of goods and gridlock on some roads in the South East resulting from extra border checks.
“The pressure is mainly on them,” French President Emmanuel Macron said of the UK.
He warned that a transition period is essential because a no-deal Brexit would be damaging.
“We will have to negotiate a transition period with them because the British cannot afford to no longer have planes taking off or landing at home,” he said.
In a short statement, the Irish government said it would ramp up preparations for the UK leaving without an agreement.
“Regrettably, the outcome of tonight’s vote increases the risk of a disorderly Brexit,” it said.
“Consequently, the government will continue to intensify preparations for such an outcome.”
Emmanuel Macron ’s inauguration of two months of nationwide debate was intended to soothe the anti-government “gilets jaunes” protests that have undermined his presidency. But even before he arrived at the first such gathering in the north of France on Tuesday, the president raised hackles by saying some poor people were “messing about”.
“For people in a difficult situation, we will try to make them take more responsibility,” the president told local officials during a stop in the small town of Gasny. “Because some are doing the right thing, and some are just messing about.”
The comments were quickly picked up on social media and French television news channels. By the time he arrived in Grand Bourgtheroulde, a Norman town of about 4,000, a familiar scene had formed outside the sports hall where 600 rural mayors were waiting for the president: about 100 angry yellow vest protesters and riot police in gear.
“It’s a masquerade,” Marie-Laure Dehors, a 29-year-old gilet jaune, said. “Read the first part of the letter he sent to the French people (about the debate). He already said he wouldn’t change direction.”
Mr Macron’s initiative is designed to show an increasingly restive French population that the president heard their criticisms of his haughty style of governing. At stake after nine consecutive weekends of at times violent demonstrations is the French president’s ability to pass contentious pensions and labour reforms.
“We have to reject demagoguery because angry outbursts have never been a solution, but we need to build the ways and means to work out solutions for the country,” he told the elected officials in Grand Bourgtheroulde’s sports hall.
The marathon debate between the mayors and Mr Macron was fractious at points, with one mayor saying that “France is sick” and another that France was “going to the wall due to extremism and intolerance”.
But as the president responded to the questions — on topics from speed limits to housing, from unemployment to mobility, pensions to purchasing power, and from Brexit to energy policy — the mood lightened and by the sixth hour Mr Macron was in shirt sleeves and trading jokes.
Near the very end he asked for “some final questions” to applause and some groans. He finished to much stronger applause than he had greeted him, with the president saying he wanted to use the debate to put together a new democratic framework.
Gilets jaunes demonstrations which began in November as motorists’ protests against rising fuel taxes and diesel prices, have widened into an anti-Macron and anti-establishment movement that has dented economic growth and consumer confidence. Some marches have turned violent, with “casseurs” or wreckers attacking and looting shops and government buildings and fighting with police.
In a later to the French people released at the weekend. Mr Macron made it clear that he saw the debate which is being conducted through public meetings, complaints books in town halls and over the internet — as an opportunity to revive support for his reforms.
He wrote he shared the desire of the protesters who have marched in cities across France for lower taxes, and wanted their suggestions for where to cut public spending or make it more efficient to finance such tax cuts.
“Macron needs the mayors. His invitation today is for him to rebuild the links with local people,” Jacques Laurent, mayor of Le Tréport on the Normandy coast, said as he waited for the president to arrive.
Mr Macron said on Tuesday that nothing was “taboo” in the public debate. However, he ruled out acceding to the demands of many gilets jaunes to reintroduce the wealth tax he scrapped to promote investment in France.
The debate is to be focused on four themes: tax and spending; the reform of state institutions; the environment; and the future of democracy and the role of citizens. One of the 35 questions Mr Macron suggested in his letter — asking whether people wanted annual immigration targets — caused anguish among some of his liberal supporters but may have resonated with supporters of the increasingly popular extreme-right Rassemblement National (National Rally) party of Marine Le Pen.
“It’s an opportunity,” Marion Roth, who heads Décider Ensemble (Decide Together), a think-tank promoting civic participation, said of the debate. “But at the same time, the critics will stay opposed and won’t participate, and others will participate without being sure that things will be followed up.”
“As for solving the crisis, I’m not sure. Among the gilets jaunes there are plenty who say the debate is fixed and it’s all decided by the government.”
Thousands of officers were deployed across Paris, which has previously seen street clashes and vandalism, to tackle the protesters, and parts of the city centre were blocked off by riot police.
Some 8,000 demonstrators were on the streets – more than in the past two weekends, when authorities counted just 3,500 people on 5 January and 800 on 29 December, according to interior ministry figures.
Some 156 protesters were arrested, and as of 21:00 local time (20:00 GMT), 108 remained in custody, police said.
By nightfall, there had not been the looting or burning of cars as seen in previous weeks.
There were also thousands of protesters in the cities of Bordeaux and Toulouse in southern France as well as Strasbourg in the east and the central city of Bourges, the site of another major rally, where more than 6,000 people took to the streets.
Nationwide, 244 people were arrested, of which 201 remained in custody, police said.
Some 80,000 police officers were deployed nationwide to face the protesters.
French President Emmanuel Macron has said a national debate is due to kick off on 15 January in response to weeks of protests by the “gilets jaunes” – so-called because of the high-visibility jackets they wear.
It will be held publicly in town halls across France and on the internet, and will focus on four themes: taxes, green energy, institutional reform and citizenship.