French President Emmanuel Macron was slapped across the face by a bystander during an official visit to southwest France on Tuesday.
The video of the incident has gone viral on social media which shows Macron walking up to greet bystanders. He approached to shake hands with a man but was slapped instead.
The secret service acted swiftly and pulled the President away immediately. Two persons were arrested later.
President Macron however returned to the barrier soon after to greet the people.
Terming the incident as an “isolated event”, President Macron said such “ultra-violent people” must not be allowed to take over the public debate. “They don’t deserve it,” he told local media.
The man reportedly shouted “Down with Macron-ism” as he slapped the president, as well as “Montjoie, Saint-Denis” – the battle-cry of the old Kingdom of France, in reference to the banner of King Charlemagne.
The motive of the attack remains unclear. The arrestees are being questioned, a news agency reported.
Meanwhile, politicians across the spectrum condemned the incident.
Prime Minister Jean Castex told the National Assembly shortly afterwards that while democracy meant debate and legitimate disagreement “it must never in any case mean violence, verbal aggression and even less physical attack”.
Far-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon tweeted his “solidarity with the president” immediately after the slap.
And far-right leader Marine Le Pen posted her own condemnation, saying that “while democratic debate can be bitter, it can never tolerate physical violence”.