PARIS

A French court on Tuesday sentenced a police officer to serve 18 months in prison for striking a 62-year-old woman with excessive force during one of the Yellow Vest protests in January 2019.

The infraction took place during a protest in the city of Strasbourg on Jan. 12, 2019 during the height of the Yellow Vest movement. Like many others, it ended with police battling protesters.

The 47-year-old officer has not been identified by name but is a 23-year veteran of the force. His sentence delineates a five-year ban on carrying a weapon, and will be entered into his record.

The “extreme stress and tension” of the day led to the officer’s “regrettable actions”, according to his lawyer Madame Christine Meyer. Her client admitted to administering a baton strike during the scuffle with the woman, but offering up at the same time “the illegitimate nature of the action.” He does not recall any other movements or infractions made on the woman.

The officer’s actions left a dozen stitches in the back of the protester’s head. She was unarmed.

The social unrest known as the Yellow Vest movement started in France during October 2018 and lasted until February this year, ceasing during the coronavirus outbreak. Centering mostly on government hikes made in the gas tax, fuel prices, and unfair economic practices affecting the lower classes, it saw thousands of protesters from around France gather in every major city for large-scale, unrelenting, and often violent protests.

The movement was named as such after the emergency yellow vests the government requires citizens to carry in their automobiles should an emergency occur, and protesters donned the protective gear as a symbol of their demands.

Yellow Vest protests were held every Saturday for months, one reaching an estimated 287,000 people. Many were filled with civil unrest and violence, such as that on Dec. 1, 2018, when police issued tear gas and water canons on thousands of out-of-control protesters storming the Arc de Triomphe.

Some 22 cars and six buildings were lit on fire that day, and dozens of store windows shattered. The day ended with three protesters breaking into the Arc de Triomphe and scaling to the top, waving the tricolor to onlookers below.

In total, 4,000 police and civilians were injured during the protests and 11 people died during the demonstrations and at hospitals.

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