January 8, 2019 / 6:40 AM / a month ago

French ministers aghast at support for boxer who fought police

PARIS (Reuters) - A former French boxing champion who surrendered to police after he was filmed raining blows on riot officers during a “yellow vest” protest has received tens of thousands of euros in public donations, infuriating government ministers.

Former French boxing champion, Christophe Dettinger (R), is seen during clashes with French Gendarmes at a demonstration by the "yellow vests" on the passerelle Leopold-Sedar-Senghor bridge in Paris, France, January 5, 2019. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

A website set up to raise funds for the boxer Christophe Dettinger showed early on Tuesday that it had received pledges of more than 114,000 euros ($130,000) to help him.

Saturday’s assault by Dettinger on police blocking a bridge over the river Seine has come to symbolise the increasingly violent nature of the protests against President Emmanuel Macron’s government.

Some among the protesters have hailed Dettinger a hero, but senior officials took offence.

“Contributing to a fundraising kitty to support someone who attacked an officer is tantamount to being an accomplice to these grave acts of violence,” said Marlene Schiappa, junior minister for equality.

Labour Minister Muriel Penicaud called the campaign “incomprehensible”. “How can these people tell their children, the young, that violence is the answer?” she told CNews television.

Leetchi, an online fundraising platform and unit of Credit Mutuel Arkea bank, later on Tuesday said it was no longer disclosing how much had been raised. It then closed the page to further cash contributions, though it said all citizens had the right to raise funds to defend themselves.

“We will of course be very vigilant over how this money is used,” Leetchi said in a statement.

“We will run checks to ensure it is only used to pay legal bills on presentation of a lawyer’s bill.”

Several Facebook pages entitled “Support for Christophe Dettinger” have been set up. One had more than 3,000 “likes”.

“I REACTED BADLY”

Dettinger turned himself in on Monday, saying he was trying to defend himself and other demonstrators, though he acknowledged: “I reacted badly”.

The boxer remains in police custody.

The twice national light-heavyweight champion was caught on camera jumping over the railings of a pedestrian bridge blocked by baton-wielding police before swinging blows at two officers, forcing them to retreat.

One was floored briefly, where Dettinger was seen kicking out at him, but the policeman managed to get up and retreat. Punches also connected with an officer’s head, footage showed.

Nicknamed the “Gypsy of Massy”, the 1.92m (6ft 4in) tall boxer was taking part in an eighth Saturday of anti-government protests that have undermined Macron’s authority.

“Good luck to you, hero of the people!” wrote one supporter, Karim Slimani, on Dettinger’s fundraising website page.

The “yellow vests” movement - named after the fluorescent jackets all French motorists have to carry in their vehicles - started in mid-November as a protest against a fuel tax but have since grown into a broader backlash against the government.

($1 = 0.8738 euros)

Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta and Emmanuel Jarry; Editing by Michael Perry and Andrew Cawthorne

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