PARIS (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron was slapped Tuesday in the face by a man during a visit to a small town in southeast France.
Macron’s office confirmed a video that is widely circulating online.
The French president can be seen greeting the public waiting for him behind traffic barriers in the small town of Tain-l’Hermitage after he visited a high school that is training students to work in hotels and restaurants.
The video shows a man slapping Macron in the face and his bodyguards pushing the man away as the French leader is quickly rushed from the scene.
French news broadcaster BFM TV said two people have been detained by police in the assault.
Macron has not commented yet on the incident and continued his visit.
Speaking at the National Assembly, Prime Minister Jean Castex said “through the head of state, that’s democracy that has been targeted,” in comments prompting loud applauds from lawmakers from all ranks, standing up in a show of support.
“Democracy is about debate, dialogue, confrontation of ideas, expression of legitimate disagreements, of course, but in no case it can be violence, verbal assault and even less physical assault,” Castex said.
Far-right leader Marine Le Pen firmly condemned on Twitter “the intolerable physical aggression targeting the president of the Republic.”
Visibly fuming, she said later that while Macron is her top political adversary, the assault was “deeply, deeply reprehensible.”
Less than one year before France's next presidential election and as the country is gradually reopening its pandemic-hit economy, Macron last week started a political “tour de France,” seeking to visit French regions in the coming months to "feel the pulse of the country.”
Macron has said in an interview he wanted to engage with people in a mass consultation with the French public aimed at “turning the page" of the pandemic — and preparing his possible campaign for a second term.
The attack follows mounting concerns in France about violence targeting elected officials, particularly after the often-violent “yellow vest” economic protest movement that repeatedly clashed with riot officers in 2019.
Village mayors and lawmakers have been among those targeted by physical assaults, death threats and harassment.
But France’s well-protected head of state has been spared until now, which compounded the shockwaves that rippled through French politics in the wake of the attack.
AP Writers Elaine Ganley in Paris and John Leicester in Le Pecq, France, contributed to the story