Christophe Dettinger: Fundraising for 'yellow vest' boxer ends after outcry

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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 source, 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 during a French "yellow vest" protest has been closed after officials expressed outrage.

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

However, there were messages of support for the fundraiser on social media, from opposition politicians and others.

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.

What does the website say?

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.

What are critics saying?

One junior minister, Marlene Schiappa, condemned the funding appeal, saying: "Contributing to a fundraising kitty to support someone who attacked an officer is tantamount to being an accomplice to these grave acts of violence."

"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 BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

Trending on Twitter in France on Tuesday were the hash tags cagnotte (English: kitty) and Leetchi.

Among those supporting the fundraiser was radical leftwing former presidential candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

"It is forbidden to pay fines through collections but Christophe Dettinger has not been convicted and the aim of the collection is to help the family," he tweeted.

"The goal of those who want to ban this collection is to destroy the family too. Shame on them."

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

Anti-corruption campaigner Christophe Grébert defended the fund, saying it was legal to ask for funds to pay court costs. Shutting the fundraiser, he said, was a "bad signal for democracy".

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

Also trending was Luc Ferry, the name of a former education minister who has suggested bringing in the army and, apparently, for police to be allowed to use their guns against rioters.

"Listen, let them use their weapons for once and that will do," he told Radio Classique on Monday.

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."

What is the human cost of the protests?

Ten deaths linked to the unrest were reported between 17 November and 22 December.

All of them occurred in traffic accidents except in the case of a woman, 80, who was hit in the face by a tear gas grenade as she was closing the shutters of her flat in Marseille.

More than 1,500 people among the demonstrators have been injured, 53 of them seriously. Nearly 1,100 members of the security forces were also hurt, French TV reported on 5 January.

As of 6 January, 5,339 people had been taken into custody and 152 had been sent to prison, the justice ministry told L'Express newspaper.