Christophe Dettinger: Fundraising for ‘yellow vest’ boxer ends after outcry

A video grab made on 7 January 2019 shows former boxer Christophe Dettinger broadcasting a message of apology for punching police officers during a "yellow vest" protest in ParisImage copyright AFP
Image caption The former junior heavyweight champion is still in custody

A fundraising page that raised tens of thousands of euros for an ex-boxer filmed punching police officers during a French “yellow vest” protest has been closed after drawing a public outcry.

More than €114,000 (£102,000) had been raised by the time the Leetchi website closed the page, reports say.

Christophe Dettinger turned himself in to police on Monday.

Officials were outraged the page had been set up, saying it was tantamount to legitimising anti-police violence.

Mr Dettinger, a former junior heavyweight champion, was still in custody on Tuesday.

Nearly 8,000 people made pledges on the page, thought to have been set up by someone close to Mr Dettinger to support him and his family, reports say.

“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 government junior minister Marlene Schiappa.

“Apparently, hitting a police officer pays off,” another minister, Mounir Mahjoubi, tweeted on Monday. “Everyone must assume their responsibilities: this fund is shameful,” he added.

The fundraising website Leetchi initially defended its hosting of the appeal, saying that as a platform it was required to remain “neutral”. But on Tuesday morning, it announced it had closed the fund “in light of the amount raised” after 7,801 pledges.

The platform did not reveal how much was raised in total, but said in a statement (in French) that it would ensure the funds would “be used only to pay for legal costs” and that any money left over would be returned to donors.

“In no way do we make judgements or take any stance whatsoever on the value of a theme, cause or project,” it added.

How did the boxer explain his actions?

The former boxer, who now works as a public servant at a town hall south of Paris, described himself in a video posted on YouTube on Sunday as an “ordinary citizen” acting out of anger with what he called the “repressive tactics” of the police.

“I am a yellow vest. I have the anger of the people in me,” he said.

A clip of him punching the officer, on the Léopold-Sédar-Senghor bridge which links the Tuileries gardens to the Musée d’Orsay, has been viewed millions of times.

Mr Dettinger, 37, later said he had “reacted wrongly” in anger after he, his wife and a friend were tear-gassed.

The boxer says he is a yellow vest and has attended all eight waves of protests, angered by those in power in France. He says he is protesting because he is concerned about pensioners, his children’s future and unmarried women.

Why are there protests?

At the weekend, there were renewed yellow-vest protests after a lull over the festive period.

About 50,000 people took to the streets again on Saturday in cities around France – more than the previous week’s protest, but fewer than the 280,000 who turned out in November.

Several men driving a forklift truck also smashed open the doors of the ministry of government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux in Paris, who denounced the break-in as an “unacceptable attack on the republic”.

What began as a protest about a fuel tax back in November has escalated into widespread anger at rising living costs.

The protest began as a grassroots French provincial movement with people donning high-visibility jackets, which by law must be carried by every vehicle in France.

It broadened to include issues involving families’ struggle to make ends meet, with calls for higher wages, lower taxes, better pensions and easier university entry requirements.

Mr Macron made a raft of economic concessions in December to appease the protesters. But he struck a defiant tone in his new year address, saying the government would push on with its reform programme, and would “make no allowances in guaranteeing public order.”

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