President of France 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.
The scene, which was filmed, shows Macron running back from his motorcade to work a rope line in the town of Tain-l’Hermitage. While shaking Macron’s hand, a grim-looking man in green T-shirt lands a hot slap on the president’s face before security intervenes.
Two men, both age 28, have been arrested and are getting questioned by the gendermarie.
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 man reportedly shouted “Down with Macron-ism” as he slapped the president, as well as “Montjoie, Saint-Denis” – the battle-cry of the old Kingdom of France, in reference to the banner of King Charlemagne.
According to reports, they risk three years in prison and a $50,000 fine over an attack on a public official.
In the video Mr. Macron briefly returned to the barrier after the incident and once again interacted with the crowd.
He later 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.
“I continued [shaking hands] and I will continue,” he later told Le Dauphiné. “Nothing will stop me.”
French politicians from across the political spectrum were quick to condemn the attack.
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.”