On Tuesday 15th of January 2019, the Director of the French National Police sent a reminder of the conditions of utilisation of the Flash-ball to all police forces. Since the beginning of the yellow crisis on the 17th of November 2018, Quant Intelligence research shows that 94 people have been seriously injured by police actions, with multiple amputations, lost eyes, and severe head injuries.
The breakdown of injuries shows that the overwhelming injuries affected the head or the eyes. Only 16% of all injuries were on the torso or members – the body parts stipulated by the rule of engagements for targeting. As of the 30th of December, the Inspection Générale de la Police Nationale which investigate police misconduct and violence had opened 48 inquiries into suspected police violence since the beginning of the crisis.
However, those numbers in conjunction with extensive video evidence of anti-riots police aiming their LBD (lanceur de balles de défense) purposefully toward the heads of protesters are indicative of a willingness by the authorities to break the movement by force and fear.
In early January, the government signaled that it would take a tougher stand toward the yellow vest, and our data show that in the following weeks the percentage of injuries to the head had risen by 20% on average. While it is too early to tell whether the trend is here to stay, the expected psychological impact on the protesters has largely backfired. Far from scaring the protesters away, it is galvanising their resolve and giving momentum to the most radical voices in the movement.
While no yellow vests have been killed by police since the beginning of the crisis – the sole police victim was an elderly lady hit by accident by a tear gas canister in her apartment – the radicalisation of the conflict on both sides is increasing the likelihood of such event happening.