The French police and gendarmerie make extensive use of explosive grenades for crowd control. Unlike many flash-bang grenades, which generate light and noise without rupturing the grenade case, these grenades carry an explosive charge that creates a violent blast upon deflagration.
Numerous cases of severe injuries associated with their use have led to a reconsideration of their deployment in crowd control.
The “OF-F1” offensive stun grenade was first deployed in the 1970s, and as early as 1977 the grenade, which contains TNT, was implicated in the death of a protester. Its use was brought to national attention in 2014, when one such grenade fired by a gendarme killed an environmental protester at the proposed Sivens dam site. Their use, as well as the use of other high-explosive “offensive grenades,” was subsequently banned in France.
However, similar weapons remain in use under the moniker of “defensive” grenades. The GLI-F4 exploding tear gas grenade was extensively used during the Yellow Vests protests of 2018 and 2019. This “hybrid” weapon combines a concussive blast produced by TNT with a payload of CS agent. It is allegedly responsible for at least 30 injuries (including five disabling hand injuries) during the Yellow Vests protests.
The GLI-F4 was withdrawn from use in early 2020, although concerns persist about its successor (the GM2L defensive grenade), which substitutes TNT for black powder yet still operates as an explosive device. Within a year of being put into use, serious injuries have already been reported from the GM2L. In regular use throughout this time period have been so-called “de-encirclement” grenades, known as “DBD” or “DMP,” which are explicitly designed to explode and project small rubber fragments across its blast radius. These fragments act as multi-projectile KIPs that cannot be aimed, resulting in a highly indiscriminate weapon. In 2016, one civilian suffered severe head trauma and another lost an eye to injuries with a de-encirclement grenade thrown by Paris police. Further reports of injuries from “sting-ball” grenades during the Yellow Vests protests–including a demonstrator who lost four fingers –are consistent with this weapon profile.