French President Macron Is Slapped In The Face During A Visit To A Small Town
Updated June 8, 2021 at 3:27 PM ET
French President Emmanuel Macron was slapped in the face as he shook hands in a crowd during a visit Tuesday to a small town in southern France. Two men, both age 28, have been arrested. They risk three years in prison and a $50,000 fine over an attack on a public official.
The scene, which was filmed, shows Macron working a rope line in the town of Tain-l'Hermitage. While shaking Macron's hand, a man is able to slap the president's face before security intervenes.
French media said the two arrested are identified with the yellow vest movement — the mostly white, working-class protests that dogged Macron politically and personally during much of 2018 and 2019.
The slapper yelled, "Montjoie Saint-Denis, à bas la Macronie." Part of the phrase is a 12th century royalist slogan that today has become a rallying cry of the far right. The other part means "down with Macronism."
Several hours afterward, Macron played down the incident in an interview with a local newspaper, Le Dauphiné Libéré. "Everything is fine," he said.
"You have to relativize this incident, which is I think an isolated one. We can't let this take over the public discussion of more important issues which concern everyone's lives."
Macron said the country could not let a few ultraviolent individuals take over the public debate.
"They don't deserve it," he said.
French politicians from across the political spectrum were quick to condemn the attack.
Former socialist President François Hollande tweeted, "To attack a President of the Republic is to give an unbearable intolerable blow to our institutions."
And far-right leader Marine Le Pen called the behavior unacceptable and deeply deplorable in a democracy.
"I am the first opponent of Emmanuel Macron, but he is the president of the Republic," she said in an interview.
"We can fight him politically, but we cannot afford to have to the slightest violence."
French news channels played the video and analyzed the incident nonstop. Some commentators questioned whether the security around Macron was good enough. Others said the president had taken a risk because he got back out of the car to go shake people's hands — an act that wasn't planned.
Most commentators agreed that a French president must be able to get out and circulate among the people.
Citing France's traditions of free expression and democracy, Macron told Le Dauphiné Libéré that the responsibility that goes with those freedoms means there should be no violence or hatred in speech or in actions.
The incident won't stop him from greeting members of the public, the president said.
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