France’s top court, the Council of State, ruled on Friday that police could use controversial rubber-bullet launchers against protesters.
That means police officers will have the right to use them during the 12th consecutive gilets jaunes (yellow vest) protest this Saturday.
The launchers officially called Defence Ball Launchers (LBDs) have been blamed for injuring multiple gilets jaunes protesters who’ve been manifesting against the government for nearly three months.
Some of these injuries include lost eyes, maimed hands, and broken limbs. A tally by French newspaper Liberation found that as of January 30, 144 people had been injured in the protests, 92 of which were caused by LBDs.
Though no officers have been scolded so far for their use of the launchers, the government did announce last week that all policemen equipped with an LBD would have to carry a bodycam as well.
In an internal note obtained by France 3, Eric Morvan, the director of the national police, reminded policemen that when firing the weapon, they should only target the torso and limbs.
Their use must stay "strictly proportional" to the situation, he added.
The ruling by the French court comes after the CGT trade union and the French Human Rights League asked for the suspension of the launchers who fire rubber bullets approximately the size of a golf ball.
A press statement by the court said that the judge found that “many of the protests since November were frequently the occasion for acts of violence and destruction.”
“The impossibility of excluding the reproduction of such incidents during future demonstrations makes it necessary to allow the police to use these weapons, which remain particularly appropriate for dealing with this type of situation, subject to strict compliance with the conditions of use.”
Police unions welcomed the court's decision, arguing the weapon is necessary because police officers are often attacked with pieces of broken glass and other handmade weapons by protesters.