A few seconds later, he stopped, lit a cigarette, and as he looked back at the riot police, he felt the full force of a golf ball-sized rubber bullet in his left eye.
"It felt like a concrete lump, I fell to the ground and thought I lost my eye, it's gone."
Breidenstein is one of at least 24 people who have lost an eye since then In November 2018, according to Desarmons-Les, a support group for those mutilated on the streets of French cities, the "Gilets Jaunes" or "Yellow Vest" protests began ,
What began as a campaign against increasing gas taxation turned into a broader rally against the government of President Emmanuel Macron. There were violent clashes across France. Protesters hurled petrol bombs and boulders while the riot police used water cannons, stun grenades, and tear gas to control anger.
In March, the French Interior Ministry estimated the number of injured yellow westers at 2,200 and the number of police officers injured in the clashes at 1
Breidenstein said he had needed two months in able to reopen its shutters. He felt better in the dark.
The father of two regrets that his eye injury prevented him from protesting. He has not been on the street since 16 March.
But on Sunday, Breidenstein plans to make the two-hour journey from his house in Troyes in northeastern France to Paris, to return to the place where he lost his eye – the Champs-Elysees, the same street in Le Fouquet has reopened for the first time since the fire that wiped her out.
He will join the Yellow West as they protest for the 35th consecutive week.
The revolt has shrunk in recent months, with fewer than 100 demonstrators appearing every Saturday in the capital.
However, the Yellow West hopes to be heard again on the Bastille Day – a national holiday commemorating the storming of the Bastille Prison in 1789 at the beginning of the French Revolution. Macron is accompanied on the occasion of celebrations by world leaders.
"They've finally caught me"
Jerome Rodrigues, a top-class and now permanently scarred member of the Yellow Vest movement, also participates in the demonstration on Sunday.
The 39-year-old construction worker was beaten to the side. "I thought, *** you have me, they finally got me!"
After receiving 17 stitches on his eyeball and four stitches on his eyelid, Rodrigues says That basic daily activities have become difficult.
"I have to hold both the glass and the bottle if I want to pour some water," he complains.
"I keep craning my neck to see what's happening on the right, and sometimes people magically appear at my side, that's my life now."
Another injured protester is Olivier Fostier, who wears dark glasses to hide his right eye, which he lost in a tear gas cloud, when a splinter was torn into his socket.
The former soldier and police officer said the riot police used excessive force that day. He said he had been a regular protester, not a "casseur" or hooligan, not a "black block," a masked and masked anarchist.
Fostier says the protest almost ended when gunfire and stun grenades were fired.
And the IGPN – the office that investigates police abuse – has opened 220 investigations into the behavior of French police officers.
France's Interior Minister Christophe Castaner repeatedly defended the riot police's behavior at rallies, but ordered a review of the police methods used in June to screen demonstrators.
CNN repeatedly called the Ministry of the Interior, which speaks for the police department, and demanded an answer to allegations of police abuse. The ministry referred CNN to earlier comments by Castaner.
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Fostier says he shuns social gatherings and prefers to go outside when it's dark.
"People are staring at you, they see you either as victims or as troublemakers."
The father of three says that it is not only a psychological trauma but also an aesthetic trauma.
"It strains on my relationship with my wife, until now my son has never seen me cry, nothing is in it."
Gwendal Leroy says he only noticed that something terrible had happened when hot blood streamed from his left eye.
"Have I lost my eye, have I lost my eye?" He shouted anxiously at doctors and friends who came to his aid.
It took several weeks for him to accept his new handicap from the rubber bullets that hit him. Now he says he feels "la haine" or hatred of the government.
"You have branded me for life!" the 27-year-old says energetically.
"I do not regret being a yellow waistcoat, but I'm ashamed to have been labeled this way by the police – people are now recognizing me and accepting assumptions about me."
Leroy is unemployed and believes his eye injury is being used in applications against him.
"It's not about what job I can get, it's about who wants me, there are bosses who have an anti-yellow vest, who will pick them?" "Or the other?" All four men have filed lawsuits against the government claiming that the police have used disproportionate force. The government still has to react.