Interview: Injured in the line of duty

The injury sustained by Jason Parkinson during the Paris May Day events / (c) Jason Parkinson

A number of journalists were injured whilst covering the May Day marches in Paris. Jason Parkinson - a British journalist and active member of the National Union of Journalists - gives an eyewitness account of how he and others came under attack.

On Monday 1 May 2017 I covered the May Day protest in Paris. Leading up to the clashes the mood was very tense. From my own experience I suspected it was going to turn violent very quickly.

At the front of the protest was a line of CRS riot police four deep. They walked backwards, a wall of riot shields facing the front of the protest.  

At about 15.41 a few bottles were thrown over the heads of the police line. The protest continued on up to Bastille, then the police line stopped halting the protest. At 15.55 several shock grenades exploded in the distance and a large number of riot police had entered the protest, surrounding the front block of demonstrators, some masked protestors and other young people.  

More explosions followed and large amounts of tear gas. I retreated to a street corner and put on my safety equipment, mask and helmet.  

At 15.03 I entered the conflict area on Rue de Rivoli, sticking to the sides of the street for cover. There must have been about another ten photographers and videographers with me. Masked protesters had thrown several petrol bombs, tear gas and rubber bullet fire was returned. At 15.05 Gendarme police moved forwards, firing tear gas and rubber bullets.

Their police line cut myself and several others off from Rue du Rivoli. We were in a side street with police in front and behind.  

As I film the advancing police in front I kept watch on the line police behind. I saw one officer step forward and from a distance of about three metres toss a shock grenade underhand right towards my legs. Two other press were next to me, the grenade hit my leg, bounced off and exploded very close to my right thigh. I felt a huge shock wave go through both legs and instant burning pain in my right thigh and knee.

(captured on film here from 30 seconds onwards:  

I ran from the side street back on to Rue de Rivoli, stopping in a doorway for cover. Police were all around and hitting out at the people that were near them. In the doorway I checked myself over. There was no blood coming through my jeans, so I figured it was just pain from the shock of the explosion.  

As I continued on trying to cover the rest of the protest, the pain didn’t go away, my knee felt very weak and after a while I gave up trying to keep up with the clashes on the protest.  

During that last hour or so I witnessed repeated attacks by police on members of the press. I saw press struck with batons, pushed and tripped over. Tear gas was fired at groups of press when there were no protestors anywhere near them, shock grenades were also thrown towards press in the same situation. One CRS officer briefly pointed his tear gas gun point blank at the chest of a man live streaming on his phone   (this last incident was captured on film here at 30 seconds in:  

I returned to my hotel room around 18.00 to discover the blast and burn on my right thigh. I packed the injury with ice and used Arnica gel to bring out the swelling and bruising. More than a week later the injury is still very visible and my knee is still feeling weak.

It is important the French authorities learn from this and respect the right to report and stop targeting journalists.

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