Wednesday 26 June 2019

France to crack down on yellow vest protesters

Prime minister Edouard Philippe announced the mobilisation of around 80,000 police for next Saturday.

Riot police on the Champs Elysees (AP Photo//Michel Euler)
Riot police on the Champs Elysees (AP Photo//Michel Euler)

By Associated Press Reporters

France is planning a crackdown on yellow vest protesters after violent clashes hit Paris for the eighth straight week of demonstrations over the weekend.

Prime minister Edouard Philippe announced the mobilisation of around 80,000 police for next Saturday.

He also said the government wants to sanction demonstrators who do not officially register their protests.

The moves came as a man identified as a former professional boxer, suspected of attacking riot police with his fists and feet during the latest protests, turned himself in and was placed in custody on Monday, authorities said.

The suspect, identified by French media as Christophe Dettinger, was filmed beating up officers on Saturday in Paris in videos that went viral on social media.

The 37-year-old, whose violent outbursts dominated media coverage of the protests, is a former French champion in the light heavyweight category, according to media reports.

“I think he lost it. People can be impulsive, I can be too,” his former coach Laurent Boucher told France Inter radio.

In a video message recorded before he surrendered to police, Dettinger acknowledged his wrongdoing but said he just tried to defend himself after he and his wife were tear-gassed by police.

“I have the people’s anger inside me. I see all these presidents, ministers and the state stuffing themselves, being incapable of leading by example,” Dettinger said.

“It’s always us, the little ones, who pay. French people, I’m with you wholeheartedly. We need to keep fighting peacefully.”

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Edouard Philippe (Eric Feferberg/ AP)

He was involved in at least two fights in central Paris on Saturday. In one video, he can be seen aiming several punches at an officer trying to protect himself with his shield on a Paris bridge close to the National Assembly.

In another video, wearing a black hat and gloves, he kicks a police officer lying on the ground.

The suspect was quickly identified but remained on the loose until he turned himself in on Monday.

Dettinger, known when he was boxing professionally as “the Gypsy of Massy”, after a town in the southern suburbs of Paris, was praised by many protesters, who lauded his courage while criticising alleged police brutality during the protests.

Interior minister Christophe Castaner estimated that about 50,000 people participated in protests around France on Saturday. Police counted about 3,500 in Paris.

Press Association

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