A prominent figure in France’s gilets jaunes, or “yellow vest,” movement was seriously wounded during a protest in Paris on Saturday.
Jerome Rodrigues, a self-described pacifist, was injured in his right eye by a projectile hurled towards him, allegedly by police.
In an interview with French broadcaster LCI on Sunday, Rodrigues said that he had stayed in Paris’ Place de la Bastille to encourage fellow yellow vest demonstrators to leave the area as skirmishes between the Black Bloc – another group of protesters often associated with anarchy and violent skirmishes – and the police, escalated.
Rodrigues’ lawyer Philippe de Veulle told CNN affiliate BFM TV that he believes that a flash ball – a controversial “less lethal” hand-held weapon launcher deployed by French police in riots – injured him.
French police said the watchdog agency the General Inspectorate of National Police (IGPN) had launched an investigation into the case of “an injured man rescued on Bastille Square.”
Rodrigues’s lawyer said he had evidence to give the IGPN.
“I have material elements in the sense that it’s a Flash Ball shot. The Flash Ball will be handed over to the IGPN Divisional Commissioner, who contacted my client’s sister last night,” de Veulle told BFM TV.
Flash Ball is a French-made trademarked projectile whose manufacturer, Verney-Carron Security, calls it a “non-lethal 44mm-gauge weapon… versatile, adaptable, but always effective.”
The incident was captured by Rodrigues, as he was livestreaming the protest, on his Facebook page. The video has been watched over 1.4M times and shared by 67,000 users.
Shortly after the incident, Rodrigues posted a photo to his Facebook account that said: “I am going to lose my eye, fam.”
The protests – named after the yellow high-visibility jackets French motorists must carry in their vehicles – started November 17 in reaction to an eco-tax on gas but have since morphed into broader demonstrations against President Emmanuel Macron and his government.
Last month, a pressurized Macron pledged to increase the minimum wage and get rid of new pension taxes. But the move has done little to appease the anger felt by some hard-core protesters.
Saturday marked the 11th consecutive week of the demonstrations. A French Interior Ministry spokesperson told CNN that approximately 69,000 people marched on Saturday in solidarity with the yellow vest movement, including 4,000 protesters in Paris.
“I am a hyper pacifist, I do not want anyone to get hurt,” Rodrigues said. “I was there to make sure my little yellow guys could get out of this hell.”
Rodrigues gave further details on the incident, saying that that he had been to the hospital and awaits further guidance from doctors regarding his injury.
“It’s very painful. I’m waiting for the doctors to come and tell me what it is. It’s my right eye, and I think I stayed in the operating room for seven or eight hours,” Rodrigues said.
Rodrigues is planning on filing a complaint to the police, LCI reported.
“I was deliberately targeted. I am a figure of the movement, at least in the Paris protests, and police pointed their fingers at me many times during previous demonstrations, so I think they knew very well who they were shooting at,” Rodrigues told BFM TV Sunday.
Ten people have died in connection with the protests, with most deaths taking place in traffic accidents related to blockades in November and December.
On Sunday, 10,500 people marched in the French capital for the so-called “foulards rouges” or “red scarfs” protest, in opposition to the ongoing yellow vest demonstrations, according to the Paris Police Department.
CNN’s Martin Goillandeau, Ben Marcus and Nada Bashir contributed to this report.