PARIS: French officials on Tuesday slammed an online fund-raising drive that has raised tens of thousands of euros for a former boxer filmed punching police officers during antigovernment protests in Paris over the weekend.
As of Monday morning, over 7,000 people had pledged a total of 117,000 euros (Dh491,819) on the Leetchi website for Christophe Dettinger, known as “The Gypsy From Massy” during his days in the ring.
Dettinger, 37, turned himself in to police Monday after videos emerged of him landing punch after punch on shield-carrying officers during the latest “yellow vest” demonstrations in the capital on Saturday.
He was still in custody on Tuesday.
In a video posted on YouTube on Sunday, he described himself 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,” said the 2007 and 2008 champion in the French junior heavyweight division.
But government officials assailed the fund-raising drive, with many calling for it to be shut down or for the pledged funds to be seized.
“Is it normal to want to support this man seen hitting an officer on the ground, boxing an officer,” Transport Minister Elisabeth Roland told Franceinfo radio on Tuesday.
“Apparently, hitting a police officer pays off,” Digital Minister Mounir Mahjoubi had already tweeted on Monday.
“Everyone must assume their responsibilities: this kitty is shameful,” he added.
The SCSI-CFDT police union, for its part, said the funds should be seized to compensate the two officers targeted by Dettinger, who were removed from duty while recovering from their injuries.
Many “yellow vests” point to a video showing a police captain beating protesters in the southern city of Toulon at the weekend — and their heavy use of tear gas and rubber bullets — to support their claim that the violence runs both ways.
For legal costs’ only
Leetchi initially defended its hosting of the fund-raising, saying that as a platform it was required to remain “neutral.”
But on Tuesday morning, it announced that it had closed the fund “in light of the amount raised” after 7,801 pledges.
“Christophe and his family are sincerely touched by your generosity... and as he says, ‘the fight continues!’” it reads on the site.
Leetchi did not reveal how much was raised in total, but said it would ensure the funds “will 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.
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe in a TV interview late Monday announced plans for legislation banning “troublemakers” from attending demonstrations following weeks of clashes between yellow vest supporters and police.
Around 50,000 “yellow vest” protesters took to the streets again on Saturday to denounce President Emmanuel Macron’s policies, call for his resignation or demand more of a say in national lawmaking.
It was the latest round of weekly protests since mid-November, with another major demonstration called for Saturday.
This time, organisers want a major turnout in Bourges, central France, instead of focusing on the capital, where dozens of cars have been burnt and stores vandalised in recent weeks.