French 'yellow vest' boxer convicted of police attack

Published 15.02.2019 00:05

An ex-boxer who became a hero to some of France's "yellow vest" protesters after beating up police officers during a demonstration was convicted on Wednesday and given a one-year prison term. Christophe Dettinger, a former national light-heavyweight champion, was caught on camera on Jan. 5 throwing a flurry of punches at an officer during clashes on a footbridge over the river Seine in Paris. He also received an 18-month suspended sentence, is banned from visiting Paris for six months and must pay his two victims sums of 2,000 and 3,000 euros.

Last month's incident caused widespread outrage, with the government describing it as a prime example of the violence that has characterized the yellow vest protests since they began in November.

One of the officers was treated in hospital for his injuries and both have sued Dettinger. However his case has elicited much sympathy among the yellow vests and their supporters, with an online fundraising drive bringing in more than 117,000 euros to cover his legal costs before being shut down. But the police have also won support, with a fund for injured officers garnering more than a million euros in donations.

Since the start of the protests, 1,796 people have been convicted, mainly for destruction of public property and attacking the police, with hundreds more awaiting trial. Prime Minister Edouard Philippe told French media on Wednesday there was "no question" of any government amnesty for convicted yellow vest activists.

Six people were arrested Tuesday on suspicion of using a forklift truck to smash open the door to the compound housing the office of government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux, an incident which occurred the same day as Dettinger's attack on the police.

The anti-government street protests have convulsed France for three months and posed the greatest challenge to President Emmanuel Macron's authority since he took office in May, 2017. In late November and early December, rioters ran amok during successive protests in Paris, defacing national monuments, torching cars and ransacking private property in the worst unrest seen in the capital in decades. Violent clashes with police, largely blamed by officials on hard-left and ultra-right militants, persist at the weekly demonstrations in Paris and other cities across France.

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