“We’ve got paramilitaries ready to intervene because they also want to topple the government,” Mr Chalençon, whose face is not shown, is heard saying.
Questioned about the recording, which French media pronounced authentic, Mr Chalençon, a blacksmith, denied being in “formal” contact with paramilitaries but told Le Parisien newspaper: “I only receive messages from armed people who say they’re ready.”
More moderate “yellow vests” disowned his statement in a further sign of growing splits in the movement. Rival far-Right and ultra-Leftist factions fought with fists, rocks and sticks in a Lyon street last weekend.
The image of the “yellow vests” has also been tarnished by accusations of anti-semitism, with offensive slogans appearing in Paris around the time of the protests last weekend and the government reporting a 74 per cent surge in offences against Jews. Benjamin Cauchy, a prominent “yellow vest” held talks with Jewish leaders in Toulouse this week and denounced anti-semitism.
Several “yellow vests” appeared in court this week. Prosecutors called for Eric Drouet, a lorry driver, to be sentenced to a suspended prison term of one month for holding unauthorised demonstrations. He is to return to court in June on the more serious charge of carrying a weapon, a truncheon, punishable by a maximum jail sentence of 10 years.