A former professional boxer who was filmed attacking a police officer during gilets jaunes (yellow vests) demonstrations in Paris at the weekend is in custody after turning himself in to authorities.
The interior minister, Christophe Castaner, said on Twitter that the assailant, named in French media as Christophe Dettinger, “will have to answer for his actions in court”.
A separate investigation has been launched after a police chief was seen on video assaulting a protester in the southern French city of Toulon.
In the Paris video, a man dressed in black is seen throwing punches at a riot police officer attempting to stop protesters crossing a bridge over the Seine. Shortly afterwards he is seen kicking a police officer on the ground in the head and face.
On Twitter, the police union SCPN wrote: “Monsieur, you have hit a colleague on the ground. You have been identified. For a boxer, you apparently don’t have a lot of respect or the rules. We’re going to teach you those of the law.”
Dettinger, 37, was French light-heavyweight champion in 2007 and 2008 and retired from the sport in 2013.
After police failed to find him at his home in Essonne, a department south of Paris where he reportedly works at a local town hall, his former trainer Jacky Trompesauce said his actions were “out of character” and advised him to give himself up.
“I can see it’s him from the pictures, but something must have happened that’s not on the video. He’s a top-level sportsman, a respectful man, not a yob … perhaps he couldn’t stomach what the gendarmes were doing to people weaker than them,” Trompesauce told journalists.
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 teargassed 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.”
Laurent Boucher, another former coach, told France Inter radio. “I think he lost it. People can be impulsive; I can be, too.”
In Toulon, officials said an internal investigation had been launched into the actions of police commander Didier Andrieux, seen attacking several gilets jaunes protesters. Andrieux, awarded the Légion d’honneur a year ago, told Var-Matin one protester he is seen on film hitting had thrown a “bottle shard” at him.
Le Parisien said the officer had been given a warning in 2015 after an alleged incident with another police officer.
The French authorities said a total of 50,000 protesters took part in an eighth successive weekend of demonstrations across the country.
A third video, shared widely on social networks, showed protesters using a forklift truck to break down the entrance to a ministry annexe housing government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux on Saturday afternoon. Griveaux was evacuated from his office and taken out of a back door during the incident.
Gilets jaunes protests began in November to oppose proposed rises in fuel taxes. The movement has since enlarged to encompass wider grievances against the French president, Emmanuel Macron, and his centrist government. Protesters have rejected concessions announced by Macron aimed at responding to public anger.
Gérald Darmanin, minister of public action and accounts, said those involved in “ultra-violence” would be treated with “ultra-severity”. “This has to stop,” he told RTL radio. “In a democracy we cannot have anarchy and chaos.”
On Sunday, hundreds of women in yellow vests marched in several French cities carrying yellow balloons. Karen, a nurse from Marseilles, said the aim was to give “another image” of the movement.
“All that’s in the media regarding this movement is acts of violence, while everyone is forgetting what is at the root of the problem,” she told Le Parisien.