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Protester slaps French President Emmanuel Macron in face

Macron speaking during his visit to a hospitality school in Tain l'Hermitage

Macron speaking during his visit to a hospitality school in Tain l'Hermitage

Police made two arrests after the French president was slapped in the face by a man in the crowd during a walkabout session in France's Drome region.

A video clip published by French media showed a man in a green T-shirt wearing glasses and a face mask shout "Down with Macronia," before slapping Macron.

How the incident unfolded

The incident took place as Macron visited the southeastern region to meet restaurateurs and students to talk about how life is returning to normal as the country's COVID lockdown eases.

Macron had been seen walking towards a crowd of apparent well-wishers behind a metal barrier in the village of Tain-l'Hermitage. He reached out his hand to greet the individual, who then hit him.

During the incident, the man — whose identity and motives were initially unclear — could be heard shouting "Montjoie Saint Denis" —a French army battle cry from when the country was still a monarchy.

A presidential security entourage quickly intervened to pull the protester to the ground and move Macron away.

'An affront to democracy'

"The man who tried to slap the president and another individual are currently being questioned by the gendarmerie," said a statement from the regional prefecture.

"Around 1:15 p.m. (1115 UTC/GMT), the president got back into his car after visiting a high school and came back out because onlookers were calling out to him," the prefecture said. "He went to meet them and that's where the incident happened."

French Prime Minister Jean Castex condemned the incident as "an affront to democracy."

"Politics can never be violence, verbal aggression, much less physical aggression," the premier told parliament.

Tour to meet voters in person

The incident constitutes a serious security breach and overshadows the beginning of a tour in which Macron has said is designed to "take the country's pulse."

About a dozen stops had been planned over the next two months, with Macron eager to meet voters in person as the country tentatively emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is expected that the president will seek re-election in elections next year. Polls show that he enjoys a narrow lead over far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

Just before he was slapped, Macron been asked to comment on a recent suggestion from far-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon that next year's election would be manipulated.

"Democratic life needs calm and respect, from everyone, politicians as well as citizens," Macron said.

In July last year, the 43-year-old president and his wife Brigitte were verbally abused by protesters as they took an impromptu walk through the Tuileries gardens in central Paris.

rc/aw (AFP/Reuters)


Updated : 2021-06-25 07:52 GMT+08:00