French President Macron slapped in face on public walkabout

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<p>French President Emmanuel Macron was slapped by a member of the public in Tain-l’Hermitage, southeast France</p> (BNONews/Twitter)

French President Emmanuel Macron was slapped by a member of the public in Tain-l’Hermitage, southeast France

(BNONews/Twitter)

Two people have been arrested after French president Emmanuel Macron was slapped in the face by a man in a crowd at a public appearance.

A video footage of the incident in Tain-l’Hermitage, southeastern France, shows a man in a green T-shirt and glasses shout “Down with Macronia” in French before slapping Macron’s face.

Security for Mr Macron quickly tackled the man to the ground, and moved the president away to safety.

"I’m always going to meet people," Mr Macron told reporters on Tuesday evening, as he was greeting a crowd in the nearby city of Valence, accompanied this time by his wife, Brigitte. "Some people express anger, sometimes disarray ... that’s legitimate anger, and we will continue to respond. Stupidity and violence, no, not in democracy," he said.

French prime minister Jean Castex described the incident as an affront to democracy. Shortly after the incident, he told the National Assembly that while democracy meant debate and legitimate disagreement, “it must never in any case mean violence, verbal aggression and physical attack”.

The presidential administration said there had been an attempt to strike Macron, but did not comment further.

Jean-Luc Melenchon, leader of the far-left La France Insoumise party, and member of the National Assembly, has tweeted his “solidarity with the president”.

Far-right leader, Marine Le Pen also tweeted her condemnation of the attack. “While democratic debate can be bitter, it can never tolerate physical violence. I strongly condemn the intolerable physical aggression which targeted the president of the Republic.”

The former president of France, Francois Hollande, tweeted: “Attacking the president of the Republic is an unbearable and intolerable blow to our institutions. In the face of this unspeakable act, the whole nation must show solidarity with the Head of State. In these circumstances, I send my full support to @EmmanuelMacron”.

Mr Macron is currently visiting the Drome region in southeastern France to speak with students, restauranteurs and small business owners about the return to normal life after the pandemic. The president had just come out of a professional high school that trains students to work in the hospitality industry when the incident took place.

The identity of the man who slapped the French president remains unknown, as do his motives. While slapping Mr Macron, he could also be heard shouting “Montjoie Saint Denis,” the battle cry of the French armies when the country was still a monarchy.

Valence prosecutor Alex Perrin said in a statement that police have detained the man who threw the slap and another man who was accompanying him. Their motives are not known at this stage, he said. They are both 28 and live in the region. They were not armed and not previously known to police. They are being detained on suspicion of "violence on a person in a position of public authority", the statement said.

The attack follows mounting concerns in France about violence targeting elected officials, particularly after the often-violent “yellow vest” economic protest movement that repeatedly clashed with riot officers in 2019.

Village mayors and politicians have been among those targeted by physical assaults, death threats and harassment.

But France’s well-protected head of state has been spared until now, which compounded the shockwaves that rippled through French politics in the wake of the attack.

Additional reporting by agencies

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