What’s In A Slap? France Ponders Meaning Of Macron Assault

France’s Macron slapped in the face during visit to small town.

 

 

French President Emmanuel Macron has vowed to continue greeting crowds during his travels despite being slapped in the face, sparking debate Wednesday about whether such walkabouts are wise in a fraught political climate and what the assault symbolised for the country.

Macron shrugged off being struck across the face on Tuesday in the village of Tain l’Hermitage, calling it an “isolated event”, and he defiantly fistbumped onlookers later in the day in the nearby town of Valence.

On Wednesday, he returned to work in the safety of the Elysee Palace in central Paris as politicians and experts sought to interpret an incident that has been condemned across the political spectrum.

Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire saw the slap as a symptom of “the long deterioration of public debate” while other commentators flagged the danger of new violent protests emerging.

Macron remains a highly divisive figure whose presidency was rocked by anti-government “yellow vest” protests in 2018-2019 which were driven in part by the former investment banker’s abrasive personality.

Veteran political commentator Pascal Perrineau saw “a sign of the return of extremely hot anger” which had been “frozen” by the Covid-19 pandemic of the last 15 months.

Pollsters were wary about trying to predict the electoral impact of a blow that Prime Minister Jean Castex equated to a strike against French democracy.

Violent crime is one of the chief concerns of French voters ahead of regional elections in a fortnight and presidential polls in April and May next year.

Macron is widely expected to seek a second term , with polls currently giving him a narrow lead over far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

Le Pen has warned that re-electing Macron would lead to “chaos”.

Other rivals, including right-winger Xavier Bertrand, have pitched themselves as better placed to unify the country.

But the assault could help Macron if voters credit him with personal bravery and a willingness to engage with voters — helping dispel criticism from opponents who paint him as aloof and arrogant.

“It’s an event that will leave a mark, but it’s difficult to say what it will be,” Bruno Jeanbart from the OpinionWay polling company told AFP.

– In custody –
Macron’s assailant, a 28-year-old man identified as Damien T., remained in police custody on Wednesday and is expected to be charged with assaulting a public figure, an offence that carries a maximum three-year prison term.

French media raked over his social media pages, looking for clues to the political sympathies of a man known mainly for his love of medieval martial arts and board games.

AFP noted he was a subscriber to several far-right YouTube channels.

Popular evening talkshow Le Quotidien aired footage of one of its journalists meeting Damien T. and friends earlier in the day on Tuesday.

One of the friends, who said he identified with the anarchist movement, explained that they had come to speak to Macron about the “decline of France”.

Police sources said that Damien T. had no criminal record and friends and acquaintances who spoke to AFP described him as a shy and placid character.

– Safety debate –
Macron has vowed to defy fears for his own safety and continue to meet-and-greet voters, despite the risk of encountering violent “yellow vest” protesters, or worse.

Islamic extremists have killed hundreds in France in a string of attacks since 2014 and Macron was personally targeted during demonstrations in Muslim countries last year over his defence of French secularism and the right to blaspheme.

“Obviously his trips are going to continue: the president will remain in contact with the French public,” government spokesman Gabriel Attal said on Wednesday.

“It would be completely incomprehensible for people to be deprived of contact with the president because of an isolated individual who wanted to challenge” him, Attal added.

The centrist leader began a nationwide tour of France last week, promising to “take the pulse” of the country.

Experts noted that while French security services advise presidents on their safety they do not have the powers to prevent them from putting themselves in harm’s way.

“In the United States it’s the opposite: the Secret Service decides if a trip is seen as too dangerous and no one opposes them, not the people in charge of protocol or even the president,” Jean-Pierre Diot, a former member of France’s specialist VIP protection force, told Le Parisien newspaper.

“The Americans have a history of attacks,” he added, referring to the history of political assassinations in the United States.

Macron Vows To Defy Security Fears After Slap

French President Emmanuel Macron (L) interacts with members of a crowd while visiting Valence on June 8, 2021 during a visit in the French southeastern department of Drôme, the second stage of a nationwide tour ahead of next year’s presidential election. (Photo by PHILIPPE DESMAZES / POOL / AFP)

 

French President Emmanuel Macron will continue to greet crowds during his travels despite a security scare that saw him slapped by a man in the south of France, a government spokesman said Wednesday.

Macron shrugged off his assault on Tuesday in the village of Tain l’Hermitage, calling it an “isolated event” and “stupidity”, and he went to chat with and fistbump onlookers later in the day in the nearby town of Valence.

“Obviously his trips are going to continue: the president will remain in contact with the French public,” government spokesman Gabriel Attal said on Wednesday.

“It would be completely incomprensible for people to be deprived of contact with the president because of an isolated individual who wanted to challenge” him, Attal added.

Macron’s assailant, a 28-year-old man identified as Damien T., remained in police custody on Wednesday and is expected to be charged with assaulting a public figure, which carries a maximum three-year prison term.

He has been described as a fan of medieval martial arts and board games, while the French media raked over his social media activity looking for clues to his political sympathies.

He is a subscriber to several far-right YouTube channels.

Popular evening talkshow Le Quotidien aired footage of one of its journalists meeting Damien T. and friends earlier in the day on Tuesday.

One of the friends, who says he identifies with the anarchist movement, explains that they have come to speak to Macron about the “decline of France”.

Police sources said that Damien T. had no criminal record and friends and acquaintances who spoke to AFP expressed surprise at his actions, describing him as a shy and placid character.

– Safety debate –

The slap has led to debate about whether it is safe for Macron to continue spontaneous meetings with members of the public.

The centrist began a nationwide tour of France last week, promising to “take the pulse” of the country a fortnight before regional elections and 10 months before a presidential vote.

He is widely expected to seek a second term in April and May next year, with polls giving him a narrow lead over far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

The 43-year-old former investment banker decided to get out of his car to greet onlookers on Tuesday who were calling his name after a visit to a school in Tain l’Hermitage.

In footage of the incident, he can be seen striding over to a barrier, with his security detail behind him, before greeting Damien T., who grabs him with his left hand and strikes with his right.

Experts highlighted on Wednesday how French security services advise French presidents on their safety, but do not have authority or powers to prevent them putting themselves in danger.

“In the United States it’s the opposite: the Secret Service decides if a trip is seen as too dangerous and no one opposes them, not the people in charge of protocol or even the president,” Jean-Pierre Diot, a former member of France’s specialist VIP police protection force, told Le Parisien.

“The Americans have a history of attacks,” he added.

Macron has been regularly booed and heckled in the street since coming to power in 2017, above all by anti-government “yellow vest” protesters, but he had never been physically assaulted before Tuesday.

The country has faced a string of Islamist attacks in recent years and Macron has been personally targeted during demonstrations in Muslim countries over his defence of French secularism and the right to blaspheme.

AFP

Man Slaps French President Macron

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks to journalists at the Hospitality school in Tain l’Hermitage on June 8, 2021, during a visit in the French southeastern department of Drôme, the second stage of a nationwide tour ahead of next year’s presidential election. 
PHILIPPE DESMAZES / AFP

 

French President Emmanuel Macron was slapped in the face while greeting a crowd in southeast France on Tuesday, a security scare that drew widespread condemnation ahead of regional elections this month.

Video footage on social media showed Macron approach a barrier to meet and shake hands with voters, where a man in a green T-shirt took hold of his elbow and said a few words before slapping him.

Macron’s bodyguards quickly intervened and two people were detained afterward, local officials said.

“At around 1:15 pm (1115 GMT) the president got into his car after visiting a high school, but got back out because onlookers were calling to him,” the prefecture for the Drome region said.

“He went to meet them and that’s when the incident took place,” it said.

Two 28-year-old men living in the region are being questioned, the local prosecutor’s office said, but “at this stage of questioning, their motives remain unknown.”

The assault in the village of Tain-l’Hermitage in the Drome region sparked outrage across the political spectrum and overshadowed what Macron billed as a listening tour to “take the country’s pulse.”

“Politics can never be violence, verbal aggression, much less physical aggression,” Prime Minister Jean Castex told parliament, adding that “through the president, it is democracy that has been targeted.”

Macron continued his trip afterwards, said an aide, who described the incident as an “attempted slap” though video footage appeared to show the man making contact with the president’s face.

On the video of the incident, someone can be heard shouting “Down with Macronism!”

Election Tour

Macron, who remains a highly divisive figure, is widely expected to seek a second term in next year’s presidential elections and polls show him with a narrow lead over far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

His latest nationwide tour includes around a dozen stops over the next two months, with the former investment banker keen to meet voters in person after more than a year of crisis management over the Covid-19 pandemic.

But previous meet-and-greet initiatives have seen the reformer verbally abused.

A 2018 tour to mark the centenary of the end of World War I saw scenes of furious citizens booing and heckling him.

It took place just as anti-government “yellow vest” protests were gathering momentum to denounce the government’s policies and the Macron personally for his leadership style, which was criticised as aloof and arrogant.

In July last year, Macron and his wife Brigitte were verbally abused by a group of protesters while taking an impromptu walk through the Tuileries gardens in central Paris on Bastille Day.

Condemnation

Shortly before being slapped, Macron was asked to comment on recent remarks from far-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon, who suggested at the weekend that next year’s election would be manipulated.

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

In a rare moment of national unity, even his fiercest critics and political rivals came to his defence on Tuesday.

Melenchon said he stood “in solidarity with the president,” while Le Pen called the slap “unacceptable and profoundly reprehensible in a democracy.”

The slap is nevertheless likely to spur debate in France about a pernicious political climate just two weeks from the first round of regional elections and 10 months from the presidential contest next April.

“It’s tense everywhere,” ruling party MP Patrick Vignal commented. “This campaign stinks and it’s because of the personalities. No one is going to come out a winner.”

In 2011, right-wing president Nicolas Sarkozy had a security scare in southwest France when he was grabbed violently by the shoulder by a 32-year-old local government employee.

Pope Francis Apologizes For Slapping ‘Exuberant Admirer’ At Saint Peter’s Plaza

 

Pope Francis apologised Wednesday for his widely-viewed slap of a woman who had grabbed his hand as he greeted Catholic faithful on New Year’s Eve.

The image of Francis slapping his way free from the clutches of the admirer was an instant hit on social media.

A personal apology followed.

“We lose patience many times,” Francis confessed.

“It happens to me too. I apologise for the bad example given yesterday,” the head of the Catholic church said before celebrating Mass at the Vatican.

Twitter enthusiasts commented with abandon on the pontiff’s prompt riposte to the woman.

Francis had greeted children before the Nativity scene on Saint Peter’s square and was turning away when the woman who had crossed herself then cried out something, pulled on his hand and almost caused him to fall.

The 83-year-old pope grimaced before managing to break free by slapping her hand twice.

He continued his tour, walking with some difficulty while maintaining a slightly greater distance from visitors, and gradually relaxed again as he came into contact with other children.

Twitter comments were mostly supportive of the pontiff’s instinctive reaction.

“HE IS HUMAN.. Been (sic) a Pope doesn’t make you immune to Pain or avoid Reaction to pain,” one typical comment read.

In his first Mass of the New Year, the pontiff later denounced “all violence against women” as “a profanation of God, born of a woman.”

Francis also said women were “the source of life” but deplored that they were constantly “offended, beaten, abused and forced into prostitution” and forced to “supress the life they carry within” them.

He emphasised that the “rebirth of humanity began with a woman,” and bemoaned that women’s bodies were “sacrificed on the profane altars of advertising, profit, pornography.”

Pope Slaps ‘Exuberant Admirer’ At Saint Peter’s Plaza

Pope Francis (L) celebrates the New Year’s day mass on January 1, 2020 in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican. Andreas SOLARO / AFP

 

 

An image of Pope Francis slapping his way free from the clutches of an admirer late Tuesday had social media abuzz with comments on the pontiff’s prompt riposte.

Francis had greeted children before the Nativity scene on Saint Peter’s plaza and was turning away when the woman cried out something, grabbed his hand and almost caused him to fall.

The 83-year-old head of the Catholic church grimaced before managing to break free by slapping the woman’s hand twice.

He then continued his tour, walking with some difficulty while maintaining a slightly greater distance from visitors, and gradually relaxed again as he came into contact with other children.

Comments on Twitter were mostly supportive of the pontiff’s instinctive reaction.

READ ALSO: Nine Dead After Indonesian Capital Hit By New Year Flooding

“HE IS HUMAN.. Been (sic) a Pope doesn’t make you immune to Pain or avoid Reaction to pain,” one typical comment read.

In his first Mass of the New Year, the pontiff nonetheless denounced Wednesday “all violence against women” as “a profanation of God, born of a woman,” a position underscored by several Twitter enthusiasts.

Another concluded that as 2020 dawned, “the pope is trending.”

I ‘lost patience’ with exuberant admirer

Pope Francis confessed Wednesday he had “lost patience” with an exuberant admirer who had grabbed his hand on Saint Peter’s Square, prompting a swift pair of slaps.

“We lose patience many times. It happens to me too. I apologise for the bad example given yesterday,” the head of the Catholic church said before celebrating Mass at the Vatican.

AFP