A man on Tuesday slapped French President Emmanuel Macron, who was visiting the Drôme department in southeastern France. Macron, during a trip to address the problems of the restaurant sector due to the pandemic, has approached to greet a group of citizens who were waiting behind a fence when a man with whom he was shaking hands has attacked him chanting a monarchical slogan. The president then continued with the planned program.
“I demand a republican start. It concerns us all. The foundations of democracy are at stake, ”said Prime Minister Jean Castex in the National Assembly during the session of questions to the Government regarding the aggression. The police have arrested two people after the incident, identified as Damien T. and Arthur C. Both are 28 years old and have no criminal record. Damiel T., the man who slapped the president, is a fan of medieval martial arts and follows far-right accounts on social media, according to several French media.
The specter of political violence has been constant for much of Macron’s presidency. The revolt of the yellow vests, in 2018 and 2019, had a component of violence and hatred of the president. A few weeks ago, a group of far-right military men, many of them retired, published a manifesto in which they described a pre-civil war environment in France and hinted at the need for a coup.
All this occurs at a time when, beyond radical environments, the debate about insecurity is growing in a context of attacks against the forces of order, but also against elected officials, and repeated Islamist knife attacks. Tuesday’s attack raises questions about the security of the head of state during his trips to “take the pulse” of the country and talk with ordinary French people.
Attacks of this type are not a rarity in France, where some politicians are adept at mass toilets who take the opportunity to dialogue and listen to the demands of the citizenry. Macron feels especially comfortable in this format, which encourages discussions that are sometimes tense, but, since he has taken over as head of state, never violent.
In 2011, during a meeting with citizens in a southwestern town similar to Macron’s, then-President Nicolas Sarkozy was assaulted by a man who ended up sentenced to six months in conditional prison. In January 2017, a man slapped former Prime Minister Manuel Valls during a displacement in Normandy.
A source from the Elysee Palace, who requested anonymity, stressed that the man who attacked Macron had “tried to hit” the president. In the video of the incident, it appears that the man did indeed hit Macron. The president, in any case, did not alter the agenda of the visit. “Exchanges with the crowd (…) have continued. The displacement continues ”, added the aforementioned source.
The attack occurred in the early afternoon of Tuesday after visiting a hospitality institute in the municipality of Tain-l’Hermitage. At the time, Macron was not accompanied by journalists. The images first circulated on social media.
In the video, a man is seen shaking Macron’s hand and shouting a slogan: “Montjoie Saint-Denis, down with macronía”. “Montojoie Saint-Denis” is a rallying cry of far-right royalists in France. The security agents immobilized the aggressor and the president continued greeting the rest of those present.
All political leaders condemned the attack. Marine Le Pen, president of the far-right National Regrouping (RN) party and Macron’s main rival in the 2022 presidential elections, said: “It is inadmissible to physically attack the President of the Republic. It is inadmissible to attack political leaders, but even more so against the President of the Republic, because he is the President of the Republic. “
Jean-Luc Mélenchon, head of the left-wing populist France Insoumise party, declared: “Are you beginning to understand now that the violent are taking action? I sympathize with the president ”.
Mélenchon, who aspires to lead the French left in the presidential elections, has been at the center of a virulent controversy in recent days. On Sunday, in a radio interview, he predicted that in the week before the 2022 elections there would be a “serious incident or murder” that “will make it possible to target Muslims and invent a civil war.” “All of this is written in advance,” he said. He was accused, by these words, of propagating conspiracy theories without proof. The next day, Mélenchon denounced the existence of a video of an ultra blogger known as Dad (his real name is Ugo Gil Jiménez) in which he simulated the execution of his party’s voters.
In an act just before the incident, Macron said: “Democratic life needs calm and respect, on the part of all, both political leaders and citizens.