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French riot cops arrest prominent yellow jackets member

Jean-Luc Melenchon, leader of the left-wing France Insoumise, branded Eric Drouet's arrest as ‘an abuse of power’

FRENCH riot police arrested a prominent member of the gilets jaunes (yellow jackets) movement in Paris on suspicion of organising an unofficial protest last night.

Eric Drouet was detained while en route to a candlelit vigil along the Champs-Elysees paying tribute to those wounded during the protests, which started almost two month ago.

 

 

Footage of last night’s arrest posted online shows riot police leading Mr Drouet through a throng of officers lined up between him and his supporters.

Above the sounds of police sirens, his supporters can be heard shouting: “Dictatorship” as he is manhandled into the back of a patrol car. 

Former presidential candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon, who leads the left-wing France Insoumise (France Unbowed) party, branded the arrest “an abuse of power.”

Messages posted on Mr Melenchon’s official Twitter page, which he does not write in person, called for an end to the persecution of the protesters. 

“Enough violence, convictions and arrests against [the gilets jaunes],” one message reads.

“Release Eric Drouet. Leave the voices of the people alone.”

Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire defended the arrest, saying: “It’s called respecting the rule of law.

“It’s normal that when you break the laws of the republic, you face the consequences.”

Mr Drouet, who works as a lorry driver, has become something of a spokesman for the decentralised, anti-government yellow jackets movement both online and on television. 

He has been credited with suggesting that lorry drivers angry at French President Emmanuel Macron’s fuel-price levy should block roads to attract the government’s attention. 

Mr Drouet also faces trial in June for a previous arrest in which he was charged with “carrying a prohibited category D weapon.” 

He says the December 22 arrest was politically motivated and his lawyer maintains that the “weapon” police accuse him of carrying was a piece of wood in his bag. 

Benjamin Cauchy, another figurehead of the protest movement, said the government was pouring oil on the fire.

“Unfortunately, I have the impression that the government wants to radicalise the movement. They have just put a coin in the jukebox and the song ‘yellow jackets’ will continue to play, that’s for sure.”

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