French President Emmanuel Macron was slapped in the face during a visit to a town in southern France Tuesday.
Video shared on social media shows Macron approach a group of people standing behind a barricade and reach out to shake one man’s hand. The man immediately shouted “Down with Macronia,” according to a translation by Reuters, and slapped the French president in the face.
The assailant could also be heard shouting “Montjoie Sant Denis,” which is a French army battle cry from when the nation was a monarchy.
In the footage, two of the president’s security guards are seen tackling the man who slapped Macron, while a third moved the head of state away from the incident. Macron later returned to the group and resumed shaking onlookers’ hands.
“Everything goes well,” Macron told local newspaper Le Dauphine Libere following the incident. “We must not let isolated acts, ultra-violent individuals, like there had been some also in (street) protests, dominate the public debate: they don’t deserve it.”
“In the Republic, there is freedom of expression, controversy, freedom to vote, and democratic pluralism which means that we can separate ourselves from the people to whom we give a mandate on a regular basis and who vote the laws for you,” he said. “The counterpart of that is that there can be no violence, no hatred, neither in speech nor in actions. Otherwise it is democracy itself that is threatened.”
Macron added that the assault didn’t cause him great concern.
“I greeted the people who were by the man’s side and made pictures with them. I continued and will continue. Nothing will stop me,” he said.
Xavier Angeli, the local mayor, told franceinfo radio that the president asked his security detail to “leave him, leave him,” referring to the offender who was being detained on the ground at the time.
Reuters reported that two people were arrested in connection with the incident, but the motive for the slap remains unclear.
French politician Marine Le Pen condemned the assault on social media, writing, “It is inadmissible to physically attack the President of the Republic. I am the 1st opponent of Emmanuel #Macron , but he is the president: we can fight him politically, but we cannot allow the slightest violence towards him,” according to a Google Translation of the tweet.
The Associated Press reported that during a the National Assembly, Prime Minister Jean Castex said, “through the head of state, that’s democracy that has been targeted,” prompting support from lawmakers across the political spectrum.
“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.