'Gilets jaunes': Romanian van driver's violent ordeal at blockade in southern France

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By Chris Harris
Watch: Footage of a van after it was attacked at a yellow vest blockade
Watch: Footage of a van after it was attacked at a yellow vest blockade

A van driver has told Euronews how feared for his safety after getting caught in a gilets jaunes blockade in France for more than eight hours.

Sorin was driving from Britain to Spain on Sunday when he was stopped just before Narbonne in south west France.

The 31-year-old said he had encountered several blockades as he drove down through France and was held for around 15 minutes at each.

“But, at Narbonne, it was something different from the beginning,” he told Euronews in a telephone interview.

“When I arrived there the guys were throwing pallets and tyres in the front of our vehicles.

“There was violence from the beginning.”

France has seen 10 days of unrest over diesel tax hikes, which has seen protesters, dressed in fluorescent yellow jackets, blocking roads.

Sorin, from Romania, said he stopped at around 11 p.m. on Sunday and — like around 30 or so other vehicles — wasn’t allowed to leave until 7.30 a.m. on Monday.

He claims to have called French police twice in the early hours of Monday and told them he didn’t feel safe.

“They told me they couldn’t do anything about it because there were strikes all over the country,” he added.

“Half an hour later a van tried to turn round and go back [from the blockade] and they stopped him with another car and they damaged the van.”

The campervan’s front windscreen was smashed in the violence, footage shot by Sorin shows (see video player, above).

He said this time the police arrived within 10 minutes and took the victim away without immediately arresting any of his attackers.

“After I saw what happened with that guy I feared for my safety,” he added. “They have the right to protest but the police and the French authorities must guarantee the safety of the people, no?”

Euronews contacted France’s National Police in Narbonne but they did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Your view: What do you think? Were you caught up in this protest or any others in France over the last week? Let me know: chris.harris@euronews.com