Jogging up to a rope line of citizens in the small wine-producing town of Tain l’Hermitage on Tuesday, Emmanuel Macron’s posture suggested he didn’t expect much to go wrong: In recent weeks, the French president has again made public meet and greets a part of his schedule as he encourages a return to pre-pandemic life. But when he went up to the line of purported supporters, a young man grabbed his right arm and slapped him in the side of his face:
Members of the Security Group for the Presidency of the Republic — the rough equivalent of the Secret Service — promptly intervened, pulling Macron away from the small crowd and grabbing two 28-year-old men. The suspects have been arrested and face three years in prison and a $50,000 fine for attacking a public official.
It’s a nation well known for living out its politics on the street, and French media have reported that the two men who were arrested were associated with the populist yellow-vest movement. Though the protests that began late in 2018 involved dissatisfied people from across the political spectrum, the man who slapped Macron yelled, “Saint-Denis, à bas la Macronie!” As NPR notes: “Part of the phrase is a 12th century royalist slogan that today has become a rallying cry of the far right. The other part means ‘down with Macronism.’”
The development naturally dominated the French news cycle as outlets questioned if Macron had enough security, or if he had taken a risk because the stop was not planned. Macron, for one, said on Tuesday that he did not intend to stop meeting with the public and that “everything is fine.”