Man in coma after ‘intolerable violence’ at France reservoir protests

The injury came amid fierce confrontations between police and demonstrators at a protest over the building of artificial reservoirs in western France

Each side blames the other for escalating the violence. Officers wore riot gear and more than 4,000 tear gas grenades were thrown, claim protesters, as one man remains in a coma with a head injury
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A man was still in a coma in hospital on Monday (March 27) after being injured at a protest over the construction of artificial reservoirs in western France, according to BFMTV.

The French media outlet said the 30-year-old had been hit by a projectile during demonstrations at Sainte-Soline, east of Niort.

It came amid violent confrontations at the site on Saturday (March 25) between police and protesters.

France’s Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne condemned an “intolerable surge of violence”.

An inquiry has been opened “to determine the exact nature…and circumstances” of the serious injuries sustained by three protesters at the event (including the man in a coma), the Niort prosecutor said in a press release on March 26.

Other inquiries have also been opened, including into the offences of “forbidden protest”, “violence against officers”, and “destruction of property”.

The emergency services attended to 47 gendarmerie officers and seven protesters, the prosecutor’s office said.

Read more: Several injured in ‘water basin protest’ in France: what happened?

Protest organisers - countryside union la Confédération paysanne, the association group Bassines non merci, and the green movement les Soulèvements de la Terre - say that the number of people injured was much higher. They say that 200 protesters were injured, including 40 severely.

Organisers said more than 30,000 people were at the protests, while authorities claim 6,000 were present.

The Sainte-Soline reservoir is one of 16 similar sites planned for construction in the region, with an eventual capacity of six million cubed metres of water. The reservoirs are intended mainly for use by local farmers and agriculture sites and will pump water from underground during the winter.

However, protesters are against the plans, saying that the reservoirs represent unfair water-sharing practices between farmers and local residents. They have denounced the plans as “water grabbing” and a “monopolisation” of scarce resources.

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