PARIS (Reuters) – A former French boxing champion filmed landing punches on riot police during a ‘yellow vest’ protest in Paris last weekend turned himself in on Monday, saying he was defending himself.
Christophe Dettinger, who was 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 the officers, forcing them to retreat.
Nicknamed the “Gypsy of Massy”, the 1.92m (6ft 4in) tall Dettinger was taking part in an eighth Saturday of anti-government protests that have undermined President Emmanuel Macron’s authority.
The demonstration began peacefully but turned aggressive as police fired tear gas to prevent protesters, who torched cars and burned barricades, from reaching parliament.
“I was gassed with my friend, my wife, and at some point I was taken over by anger, so yes I acted badly. I acted badly, but I defended myself,” Dettinger said in a video posted on Facebook before he handed himself in to police who arrested him.
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner described Dettinger’s assault as “cowardly and intolerable”.
In another video, Dettinger, wearing a black hat, gloves and coat but no mask, can be seen kicking a policeman on the ground. One of the officers the former boxer attacked has been sent on 15 days’ sick-leave, according to the Paris prosecutor’s office.
Macron has been shaken by the demonstrations and the authorities’ struggle to maintain order at the weekend raises questions over policing tactics and the president’s broader response to the wave of unrest.
That is likely to be closely scrutinised as he prepares to bring in stricter rules for unemployment benefits and cut thousands of public sector jobs.
(Reporting by Michel Rose; editing by Richard Lough and John Stonestreet)