BFM TV / AP
VALENS, France (AP) – A 28-year-old Frenchman who identified himself as a right-wing or far-right “patriot” was sentenced to four months in prison on Thursday for slapping President Emmanuel Macron.
Damien Tarrell was also barred from holding public office in France and possessing weapons for five years during Tuesday’s strike, which caught Macron’s left cheek with a sound strike as the French leader greeted the crowd.
During the trial on Thursday, Tarrell testified that the attack was impulsive and unplanned and provoked by anger at France’s “decline.”
He sat upright and showed no emotion as a court in the southeastern city of Valens convicted him of violence against a man invested in public power. He was sentenced to four months in prison and given an additional 14-month suspended sentence. His girlfriend burst into tears.
Tarrell, who cried out for centuries of royalist wars as he beat the president, described himself as a right-wing or far-right “patriot” and a member of the yellow vest economic protest movement that rocked Macron’s presidency in 2018 and 2019.
Balanced and calm, he firmly defended his actions and views on Macron, without giving details of what policies France wanted to change.
Tarrell admitted that he hit the president with a “rather violent” slap. “When I saw his friendly, false look, I felt disgusted and got a violent reaction,” he told the court. “It was an impulsive reaction … I myself was surprised by the violence.”
Although he said he and his friends were considering bringing an egg or cream pie to throw at the president, he said they had rejected the idea – and insisted the slap was not intentional.
“I think Emmanuel Macron represents the decline of our country,” he said, without explaining what he meant.
He told investigators that he had correct or far-right political convictions without being a member of a party or group, according to prosecutors.
The slap has drawn attention to a range of far-right groups that are boiling over France’s political landscape, which are seen as increasingly dangerous, despite their small consistency.
Macron will not comment on Thursday’s trial, but insisted that “nothing justifies violence in a democratic society, ever.”
“It’s not such a big deal to get slapped when you go to the crowd to greet some people who have been waiting for a long time,” he said in an interview with BFM-TV. “We must not make this stupid and violent act more important than him.”
At the same time, the president added, “we should not make it trivial, because everyone who has public authority has the right to respect it.”
Another man arrested as a result of the slap, identified by the prosecutor as Arthur S., will be convicted later, in 2022, of illegal possession of a weapon.
Prosecutors say that in addition to finding weapons, police who searched Arthur S.’s home also found martial arts books, a copy of Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” manifesto and two flags, one symbolizing the Communists and the other the Russian revolution.
Neither Tarel nor Arthur S., also 28, had police records, the prosecutor said.
While crimes in France often take months or years to reach trial, in this case the authorities used a special emergency procedure to conduct a trial within just two days of the slap. Tarrell did not object to the procedure.
The videos show Macron’s assailant slapping the French leader’s left cheek, and his bodyguards repulsed the man during a quick meeting and greeting with members of the public who were detained behind traffic barriers in the wine-producing town of Tain-l’Hermitage. .
The assailant was heard shouting “Montjoy! Saint Denis!” a centuries-old cry of royalist wars before ending with “A bas la Macronie” or “Down with Macron”.