French Presidentwas slapped in the face on Tuesday by a man during a visit to a small town in southeastern France, an incident that sparked widespread demonstrations of support for the head of state by ideological politicians.
The French president congratulated the public who was waiting for him behind the barriers in the city of Ten-l’Hermitage after visiting a high school that trains students to work in hotels and restaurants. A video of the incident was posted on Twitter.
Macron described the incident as an “isolated act” in an interview with local newspaper Le Dauphine Libere.
“Everything is going well … We must not allow isolated acts, people with ultra-violent violence, as there were in (street) protests, to dominate the public debate: they do not deserve it,” he said.
Macron said he had no specific concerns after the attack.
“I greeted the people who were next to the man and took pictures with them. I continued and will continue. Nothing will stop me,” he said.
Bodyguard, who was standing directly behind Macron, raised his hand in defense of the president, but it was too late for a split second to stop the slap. The bodyguard then hugged the president to protect him.
Macron had just managed to turn his face when the aggressor’s right hand was tying together, and the president seemed to take a look rather than a direct slap.
The masked man seemed to be shouting “Montjoa! Saint Denis!” a century-old cry of royalist wars before ending with “A bas la Macronie” or “Down with Macron”.
Another video shows Macron returning immediately after the incident, ostensibly to confront his attacker and then greet the rest of the crowd.
French television operator BFMTV reported that police had detained two people, the man suspected of slapping Macron and another man who had made a video.
A few hours later, Macron took a 25-minute walk through the narrow streets of the nearby town of Valens, posing for a selfie with a small crowd and talking to many people in a light and warm atmosphere. Some could be heard saying to Macron, “Thank you” and “Good luck.”
In 2018, “Montjoie! Saint Denis!” was summoned by someone who threw a cream pie at French MP Eric Cockerel. At that time, the far-right monarchist group Action Francaise took responsibility. Cockerel expressed his solidarity with Macron on Tuesday.
Speaking to the National Assembly, the lower house of the French parliament, Prime Minister Jean Castex said that “democracy is directed through the head of state”. Lawmakers across the political spectrum rose to their feet and applauded in support.
“Democracy is about debate, dialogue, confrontation of ideas, expressing legitimate disagreements, of course, but in no case can it be violence, verbal assault and even less physical violence,” Castex said.
Far-right leader Marine Le Pen strongly condemned on Twitter “the unbearable physical aggression directed at the president of the republic.”
Apparently cracked, she later said that while Macron was her biggest political opponent, the attack was “deeply, deeply reprehensibly”.
Former Socialist Party President Francois Hollande wrote on Twitter that the slap was “an unbearable and unbearable blow to our institutions … The whole nation must show solidarity with the head of state.”
Less than a year before France’s next presidential election, centrist Macron launched a political tour de France last week, saying he plans to visit French regions in the coming months to “feel the country’s pulse” as the government works for reviving the nation’s economy affected by the pandemic.
Macron said in an interview that he wanted to engage with the people in a mass consultation with the French public aimed at “turning the page” on the pandemic – and preparing for a possible campaign for a second term.
Growing concerns about violence against elected officials and police have been voiced in France, especially after rebellious members of the so-called “yellow vest” economic protest movement repeatedly clashed with riot police in 2019.
Rural mayors and lawmakers have also been the target of physical assaults, death threats and harassment.
But France’s well-protected head of state was spared, complicating the shockwaves that erupted in French politics since Tuesday’s attack.
Macron, like his predecessors, likes to spend time meeting and greeting the public. Called “French baths” in French, they have long been a key element of French politics and very rarely show disrespect for the president.
However, Macron has been verbally attacked in previous initiatives for meetings and greetings, reports AFP.
A 2018 tour to mark the centenary of the end of World War I saw scenes of furious citizens whistling and teasing him. And last July, Macron and his wife Brigitte were verbally abused by a group of protesters while walking a makeshift tour of the Tuileries Gardens in central Paris on Bastille Day.
Casual observers pulled the suit of then-President Nicolas Sarkozy during a bath in the crowd in 2011. His successor, Hollande, was showered with flour the following year, months before winning the presidential election.