Did French police prevent medical aid to injured protesters?
French President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to the Alps this week came amid ongoing strikes against the government’s controversial pension reform, as well as violent protests against plans to build water reservoirs in hundreds places in France.
French protesters were called to gather across the country last Thursday evening to express their fury at the escalating clashes.
The big controversy right now is whether law enforcement obstructed the response of emergency medical services during a protest on Saturday in Sainte-Soline in southwestern France.
Two people in a coma, more than 200 injured
More than 25,000 people gathered in the rural town to protest against the construction of the so-called mega-ponds.
The French government estimates that these reservoirs will help water farmland during the summer and will be filled during the winter by pumping groundwater.
But environmentalists say it will do more harm than good to already depleted rivers and the region’s biodiversity.
The protest was quickly marred by violence with more than 200 protesters injured.
One person lost an eye after being hit by a projectile and two other men were still in a coma a week later, protest organizers said.
“We will not send a helicopter or an ambulance”
In a recording released by French newspaper Mediapart in coordination with the French League for Human Rights, we hear a telephone exchange between a lawyer and a rescuer.
The speaker explains that no helicopter or ambulance can enter the area due to an order issued by the police.
The lawyer points out that the area where the seriously injured are located has been calm for 30 minutes.
The emergency responder agrees but says they can’t go against the authorities’ order.
The National Gendarmerie, the branch of the armed forces that intervened in the protest, claimed the accusations were fake news.
On Twitter, they insisted on helping with evacuations and asked their medical team to help injured protesters.
In a report on Saturday’s clash, the director general of the gendarmerie described the use of force as “proportionate”.
Meanwhile, the parents of the two men in a coma filed a complaint on Wednesday, accusing law enforcement of “attempted murder”.