French President Emmanuel Macron was slapped Tuesday while shaking hands across a barrier in a small southeastern French town.
Video from the scene showed Macron striding toward a small crowd of people waiting behind a barrier. According to Reuters, as Macron reached out to shake hands, a man in the crowd shouted “A bas la Macronie” (Down with Macronia) and slapped Macron in the face.
The president was swept away by security, and the man was seized immediately. French news agency Agence France-Presse quoted the local prosecutor’s office as saying two men in their 20s were brought in for questioning. No motive for the slap was provided.
Macron had just finished touring a high school in the village of Tain-l’Hermitage in the Drome region.
He resumed walking the streets and meeting with local residents a short time later.
Later Tuesday, while speaking before the National Assembly in Paris, French Prime Minister Jean Castex told members of Parliament the attack on Macron was an attack on democracy itself.
“Democracy, as you are demonstrating, is about debate, dialogue, the face-off of ideas, the expression of legitimate disagreement, of course. But it can be in no case about violence,” he told lawmakers.
Macron received an outpouring of support from across the French political spectrum. AFP reported that Jean-Luc Melenchon, a far-left leader in Parliament, said he stood "in solidarity with the president," while far-right politician Marine Le Pen called the slap "unacceptable and profoundly reprehensible in a democracy."
The president’s office described his tour of southern France as a “listening tour” designed to “get the pulse of the country” as the COVID-19 pandemic appears to be entering its final stages. Macron is up for reelection next year.