Outrage in France as cash pours in for boxer who bashed police

A video grab made on January 7, 2019 shows former boxer Christophe Dettinger broacasting a message of apology for punching police officers during a "yellow vest" protest in Paris. (AFP)
Updated 09 January 2019
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Outrage in France as cash pours in for boxer who bashed police

  • Christophe Dettinger, known as “The Gypsy From Massy”, turned himself in to police on Monday after videos emerged of him assaulting officers

PARIS: French officials on Tuesday condemned a fundraising drive that brought in more than 100,000 euros for a former boxer filmed punching police officers during the latest “yellow vest” anti-government protests in Paris over the weekend.
Christophe Dettinger, known as “The Gypsy From Massy” during his days in the ring, turned himself in to police on Monday after videos emerged of him assaulting shield-carrying officers during the demonstrations on Saturday.
As of Tuesday morning, over 7,000 people had pledged a total of 117,000 euros ($134,000) on the Leetchi website to help pay legal costs for Dettinger, who remains in custody.
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 was tear-gassed, with my friend and my wife, and at a certain point the anger just rose up inside me,” said the 2007 and 2008 champion of France’s light heavyweight division.
His case garnered many pledges of support on social media, with some calling him a hero for defending a movement that has accused police of using excessive force against demonstrators.
But government officials assailed the fundraising drive, with many calling for it to be shut down or for the pledged funds to be seized.
“To what level of hate have we sunk to in the public sphere that people fund gratuitous violence against someone charged with upholding public order?,” Equality Minister Marlene Schiappa told France Info radio Tuesday.
“It’s outrageous, this kitty is shameful,” she said.
“I can’t understand anyone putting one cent of a euro to defend a man who attacked (police) with such violence and cowardice,” Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire told France 5 television.
The SCSI-CFDT police union said the funds should be used to compensate the two officers targeted by Dettinger, who were removed from duty while recovering from their injuries.
Leetchi initially defended its hosting of the fundraising, saying it was simply a “neutral” online platform.
But on Tuesday it stopped displaying the amount pledged, before closing the kitty “in light of the amount raised” after more than 8,100 pledges.
Leetchi did not reveal how much was raised in total, but said that 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.
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 law-making.
It was the latest of weekly protests since November that have often spilled into running battles with police in Paris and other cities, with dozens of vehicles set ablaze and stores vandalized.
Many protesters claim they are simply responding to police violence, pointing to a video showing a police captain hitting protesters in the southern city of Toulon at the weekend, and their heavy use of teargas and rubber bullets.
Journalists have also become targets for protesters, with many media outlets hiring bodyguards to protect their reporting teams.
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe in a TV interview late Monday announced plans for legislation banning “troublemakers” from attending demonstrations.
Another major demonstration has been called for Saturday, this time in Bourges, central France, instead of the capital.
The yellow vest movement, originally against fuel tax hikes, has snowballed into a wide protest against the rising cost of living, which prompted Macron’s government to announce a minimum wage hike and other financial relief.
But many of the protesters say the measures are not enough and that rural France is paying the price for Macron’s policies, which they see as mainly profiting a wealthy Parisian elite.
Politician Chantal Jouanno had been due to lead a national debate organized by the government to discuss living standards and government policies.
On Tuesday, under criticism for the 14,666-euro monthly salary she was reportedly receiving, she stepped down from that role — but would stay on to head the national committee overseeing the debate.
The head of France’s employers federation, MEDEF International, warned Tuesday that footage of the protests would scare off foreign tourists.
“When you are in the United States, you have the impression that France is in a civil war,” said Frederic Sanchez.


Boko Haram displaced feel forgotten amid Nigeria election fever

Updated 20 February 2019
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Boko Haram displaced feel forgotten amid Nigeria election fever

  • More than 27,000 people died and 1.8 million displaced since the start of Boko Haram conflict in 2009
  • Malkohi residents say they will support President Muhammadu Buhari because he helped curtail the extremists’ power

MALKOHI, Nigeria: Idriss Abdullahi was once a successful businessman and a husband to four wives, until the day he fled his home when Boko Haram insurgents advanced across northeastern Nigeria.
Five years on he lives beside dull farmland in a tented camp in Malkohi village, near the Adamawa state capital Yola, and tries to make a living selling firewood.
But the earnings are so meager he has had to divorce one of his wives.
“Even an animal lives better than me,” he told AFP in the camp he shares with 2,800 of his neighbors from the Borno state town of Gwoza, which the insurgents sacked in 2014.
More than 27,000 people have been killed since the Boko Haram conflict began in 2009 and some 1.8 million others are still displaced.
President Muhammadu Buhari came to power in 2015 on a pledge to end the insurgency, which at its peak saw the extremists control an area the size of Belgium.
In Abdullahi’s hometown, the wild-eyed leader of the extremists, Abubakar Shekau, declared an Islamic caliphate.
An offensive involving Nigerian troops and foreign mercenaries pushed them back. But in recent months there have been signs of resurgence.
Despite that, residents of Malkohi say they’re ready to support Buhari at Saturday’s rescheduled vote — even if they can’t return to Gwoza to do so.
“It’s not that we actually love him,” Abdullahi said of the president. “It’s that he saved our lives from Boko Haram.”
Shortly after taking office, Buhari declared Boko Haram “technically defeated,” apparently fulfilling the promise that was seen as a key to his victory.
But in February last year, the group seized 110 schoolgirls from Dapchi, in an echo of the 2014 abduction of more than 200 from Chibok that brought world attention to the conflict.
Malkohi itself hasn’t been spared; the group in 2015 bombed a government-organized camp across the road from the informal settlement where the former Gwoza residents stay.
An Islamic State-allied faction has in recent months overrun military bases, seizing equipment and weapons, and forcing tens of thousands of people to flee for their lives.
Nigeria’s election commission has been forced to set up special measures for them to vote: in Borno, some 400,000 displaced people will vote at 10 centers.
Several others have been created in Adamawa.
The main opposition candidate, Atiku Abubakar, has seized on the insecurity and claimed Buhari has failed in his core duty of keeping Nigerians safe.
But from their homes in Adamawa — Abubakar’s home state — Malkohi residents say they feel more forgotten than under attack.
“Up to now, hospitals have not been provided. Before, [aid groups] gave us drugs, but now we don’t receive any,” said Fanta Ali, a housewife at the camp.
The Malkohi camp today is made up of rows of shacks separated by dirt paths, on which barefoot children and turkeys strut.
The makeshift homes are constructed from tarpaulin donated by aid agencies who also built a water tower for the settlement.
Many Malkohi residents were prosperous in Gwoza but without money to start businesses they now rely on manual labor to get by.
“Seriously, I’m suffering,” said Abdulrahman Hassen, once a merchant and chair of a professional association who now farms for a living.
Returning to Gwoza, where Boko Haram remains strong, is still a distant prospect. Helping people go home will be on the next president’s to-do list.
The displaced say they’re made to feel like outsiders in Adamawa, and local residents call them thieves for farming the land around the camp.
Gwoza was badly damaged when it was retaken in 2015, and cellphone reception is so weak residents climb trees to get a signal, said Yunussa Takda, a youth leader in Malkohi.
Meanwhile, the town’s outlying villages are still unsafe.
“Under Buhari, we’ve seen that a lot of our villages that have been taken by Boko Haram haven’t been recovered,” he said. “Maybe if he’s given a second chance, we can go home.”
Umaru Ibrahim Bakare lost track of his pregnant wife and then three-year-old daughter in the chaos of Boko Haram’s initial attack on the town, and has been looking for them ever since.
He made an unsuccessful trip to the Borno state capital, Maiduguri, aiming to find his family.
He remains hopeful after the Red Cross connected a friend with three children he’d lost when fleeing Boko Haram.
“We must vote Muhammadu Buhari to finish what he’s started and defeat the insurgency,” he said.