As French President Emmanuel Macron was out meeting and greeting in a charm offensive in Southern France, he was slapped across the face on Tuesday by a man that he shook hands with. Macron denounced the assault as an affront to democracy.
A viral video on social media shows Macron extending his hand to a man in a small group of onlookers behind a metal barrier as he visited a training college for the hospitality industry. The man, who was wearing a khaki t-shirt, yelled: “Down with Macronia” and slapped the president hard across the left side of his face. Security swooped in immediately.
The man also reportedly shouted: “Montjoie Saint Denis,” which was allegedly the revolutionary battle cry of the French army when the country was still ruled by a monarchy.
Macron’s security detail wasted no time in tackling the man. Two of his guards were all over the attacker. Another in his detail moved the injured leader away. However, the French president remained in close proximity to the crowd briefly gesturing at someone on the other side of the barricade. Eventually, security agents escorted Macron away from the scene. Later on, he attended a scheduled lunch with his wife Brigitte.
— ⚜️ (@AlexpLille) June 8, 2021
Police arrested two 28-year-old men in connection with the assault. The man who slapped Macron was not identified and no motive was given. They are being questioned by authorities and are charged with “willful violence against a person holding public authority.”
Macron was visiting the region to meet with restaurateurs and students. He was there to discuss returning to some semblance of normalcy following the pandemic. The president is ostensibly trying to get a feel for his chances in the upcoming presidential election next year. “Tomorrow, a new step will be taken,” Macron enthusiastically tweeted. “Life will resume in all our territories!”
Xavier Angeli, who is the local mayor, claimed that Macron ordered his security detail to “leave him, leave him” while the attacker was pinned down on the ground according to Franceinfo radio.
France’s Prime Minister Jean Castex harshly condemned the attack: “Democracy can never be about violence, verbal aggression, and even less about physical aggression. I call for a republican awakening, we are all concerned, the foundations of our democracy are at stake,” he stated.
Far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who has been very critical of Macron, also slammed the attack: “I am Emmanuel Macron’s No. 1 opponent, but he is the president. We can fight him politically but we cannot allow the slightest violence towards him,” she noted on Twitter.
French left-wing political rival Jean-Luc Mélenchon also tweeted that he stood “in solidarity” with Macron.
This is not the first time that Macron has been the subject of an attack. In 2016, while he was economy minister, he was pelted with eggs by hard-left trade unionists during a strike. Macron brushed off the incident as “par for the course” and said it would not diminish his determination.
Two years later, anti-government “yellow vest” protesters heckled and booed him in yet another incident that government allies claim left Macron shaken.
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