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  • Jerome Rodrigues posted a pitcure of himself  leaving the hospital after being hit by the police's

    Jerome Rodrigues posted a pitcure of himself leaving the hospital after being hit by the police's "flash-ball". | Photo: Facebook / Jerome Rodrigues

Published 27 January 2019

The rubber bullets — which are not used in most European countries — have become deeply controversial in France since the protests began in November, blamed for hundreds of serious injuries.

A prominent French anti-government "yellow vest" activist, was badly injured in the eye at a protest Saturday after he was struck with one of the controversial rubber bullets used by French police, his lawyer said Sunday.

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Jerome Rodrigues' lawyer fears he will be "handicapped for life" after he was injured in clashes with police in Paris on Saturday during an 11th straight weekend of protests against President Emmanuel Macron.

Rodrigues, a 40-year-old construction worker, was placed in an artificial coma overnight after the incident at the Bastille monument in central Paris.

"He is in shock. He will be handicapped for life. It is a tragedy for him and his family," lawyer Philippe de Veulle told BFM television, adding that he was lodging a complaint against police.

"I'm gonna lose my eye, fam" posted the yellow vest leader on Facebook.

The bearded Rodrigues, who has become a well-known figure in the "yellow vest" movement with 50,000 followers on Facebook, was live-streaming the protest on the website when he was hit.

De Veulle said Rodrigues was struck with a "flashball," referring to the 40-mm (1.6-inch) rubber projectiles used by French riot police.

On Saturday, police using the bullets were for the first time deployed wearing body cams in a bid to increase transparency.

Rodrigues, speaking to LCI television from hospital, said he was also hit by a stingball grenade, another controversial riot control device.

"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," Rodrigues said.

Rodrigues' lawyer insisted he was not one of the "hooligans" who have been joining the weekly protests to cause trouble for police.

In the video, Rodrigues can be heard several times warning protesters to leave the Bastille area because hard-left "black bloc" agitators were coming to attack the police.

On Jan. 14, the national daily Liberation counted 109 people were seriously injured, including 78 as a result of police weapons.

Witnesses picked up the projectile that struck Rodrigues and police are set to investigate the circumstances of the incident.

Originally sparked by rises in fuel taxes, the "yellow vest" protests quickly snowballed into a widespread revolt over accusations that Macron, an ex-banker, is out of touch with rural and small-town France.

Named after the emblematic luminous road safety vests worn by protesters, the demonstrations have drawn tens of thousands of people to the streets every Saturday since November.

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