Italian minister Di Maio shows support for French 'yellow vests'
10 January, 2019, 17:29 | Author: Carlos George
A former boxing champion who attacked police during violent yellow vest protests has raised more than €100,000 in public donations to fund his defence, to the anger of the French government.
He spoke after rioters torched motorbikes and set barricades ablaze on Paris's up-market Boulevard Saint-Germain on Saturday, underscoring how protests against high living costs and President Emmanuel Macron have turned violent on the fringes.
"Contributing to a fundraising kitty to support someone who attacked an officer is tantamount to being an accomplice to these grave acts of violence", said government junior minister Marlene Schiappa.
"Yellow vest" protests against fuel taxes began in rural and small-town France in late November, but then mushroomed into a wider revolt in December against the policies and governing style of 41-year-old Macron.
The police at times appeared defenceless, with former heavyweight fighter Christophe Dettinger filmed landing blows on officers guarding a bridge leading to the National Assembly.
Leetchi initially defended its hosting of the fundraising, saying it was simply a "neutral" online platform. "I have the anger of the people in me ... it's always the little people who pay".
Luigi Di Maio, the Italian deputy prime minister and leader of the 5-Star Movement (M5S), likened the French "yellow vests" to his own political movement.
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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.
Images of a policeman beating several protesters in the southern city of Toulon last Saturday have also been widely condemned.
The French media has been targeted, while mock executions of Macron have also been a feature of some gatherings.
He had ambitions to create a new centrist alliance of European lawmakers, but the yellow vest crisis cast doubts on his capacity to do so.
Protesters wearing yellow vests take part in a demonstration by the "yellow vests" movement in Paris on January 5, 2019.
"In France as in Italy, politics has become deaf to the needs of citizens, who have been excluded from the most important decisions", di Maio wrote, drawing parallels between the Gilet Jaunes protests that have crowded the streets of France since mid-November 2018 and his anti-establishment party.
The protest began as a grassroots French provincial movement with people donning high-visibility jackets, which by law must be carried by every vehicle in France.
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