French yellow vest anti-govt protests turn violent in Paris

  • Yellow vest protesters take part in a demonstration to keep pressure on French President Emmanuel Macron’s government, for the 13th straight weekend of demonstrations, in Paris, France, Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)

  • Yellow vest protesters walk down the famed Champs Elysees avenue to keep pressure on French President Emmanuel Macron’s government, for the 13th straight weekend of demonstrations, in Paris, France, Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)

  • Emergency services attend to a Yellow vest protester who has a serious hand injury during clashes with riot police in Paris, France, Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019. Yellow vest protesters keep pressure on French President Emmanuel Macron’s government, during demonstrations for the 13th straight weekend. (AP Photo)

  • Riot police run past burning dustbins set on fire by yellow vest protesters as they keep pressure on French President Emmanuel Macron’s government, for the 13th straight weekend of demonstrations, in Paris, France, Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)

PARIS — A French yellow vest protester’s hand was ripped apart Saturday during violent clashes in Paris as demonstrators tried to storm the French National Assembly in a 13th consecutive week of unrest.

Police said the injured protester lost four fingers as police swooped in to stop protesters from breaching the parliament’s exterior. Police could not confirm French media reports that the demonstrator’s hand was blown up by a grenade used to disperse unruly crowds.

As scuffles broke out in front of the National Assembly and French police responded with tear gas, paramedics huddled around the injured protester at the National Assembly gates, providing emergency treatment and stopping bystanders from getting too close.

Police used batons and fired tear gas in Paris to disperse demonstrators, some of whom threw debris at riot police hunkered down.

Fire department spokesman Gildas Lecoeur told The Associated Press that the injured man was taken to a hospital, but he couldn’t confirm his current condition.

A car, motorbikes and multiple trash bins were set ablaze as the protest moved toward the city’s Invalides monument but France’s Interior Ministry said this week’s protest was significantly smaller than last week’s.

Police said 21 demonstrators had been arrested as scuffles broke out between protesters and police near the Champs-Elysees Avenue and the National Assembly. The protest march is due to end up near the Eiffel Tower.

The yellow vest activists, who have brought hundreds of thousands onto the streets over the past three months, are now trying to achieve electoral success but the movement is politically divided and has no appointed leader.

French President Emmanuel Macron — the target of many demonstrators’ anger — seems to be clawing back support from the public as he tries to address the movement’s anger with a national political debate on economic injustice. Recent polls show Macron’s approval ratings are rising.

Earlier Saturday, activists in Latvia staged a picket in front of the French embassy in Riga, the capital of the small Baltic EU country, to support the yellow vest movement and urge Latvians to demand higher living standards.

The activists waved Latvia’s red-and-white flag, shouting slogans like “the French have woken up, while Latvians remain asleep.”

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Jari Tanner in Helsinki contributed to this report.

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