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Crowdfunding Pits French Police vs. Yellow Vest Protesters

Crowdfunding Pits French Police vs. Yellow Vest Protesters

As France’s yellow vest movement digs in for more protests, weeks of street clashes have produced a competition over which side can raise more money: protesters or police.

So far, the police seem to be winning. An online crowdfunding campaign for officers hurt in confrontations with protesters raised more than 1 million euros (almost $1.2 million) by Thursday, days after it was launched.

The fundraising effort came in response to a similar but more controversial appeal for donations to benefit a boxer captured on video Saturday while punching police officers at a Paris protest.

The drive on behalf of boxer Christophe Dettinger was promoted as generating money for his legal bills, but drew broad outrage as encouragement of violence. Online fundraising site Leetchi suspended the campaign Tuesday after it raised some 120,000 euros ($138,000).

The fund offended President Emmanuel Macron’s government and the police departments that deployed officers to control crowds of sometimes violent demonstrators every weekend since the yellow vest movement kicked off Nov. 17. Conservative lawmaker Renaud Muselier launched the rival drive for injured officers.

The boxer acknowledged his behavior went too far and turned himself in to authorities. Dettinger was ordered to remain in custody until his trial next month on charges of violence against public officials.

Other groups also have tried online crowdfunding for French police or the anti-government movement. The protests started with motorists opposing fuel tax increases, which is why participants in the ongoing demonstrations wear the fluorescent vests French drivers are required to keep in their vehicles.

New protests are planned for this Saturday despite Macron promising billions of euros in tax relief and making other concessions.

In addition to violence and vandalism in the heart of Paris, the movement has attracted admirers in other countries. Italian Deputy Premier Luigi Di Maio has said his populist movement is ready to help the French protesters, angering Macron’s government.

The movement also inspired street artist Pascal Boyart, known as Pboy, who unveiled a huge mural in Paris on Thursday. The work evokes the well-known Eugene Delacroix’ painting “Liberty Leading the People,” with yellow vest protesters in place of French revolutionary masses in 1830.

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