French President Emmanuel Macron is not having a very good year. The pandemic in France continues to take its toll and the people are chafing at the partial lockdowns that continue to be a drag on the economy. His handling of the vaccine rollout has been a disaster according to many observers as France lags behind nations like the UK and Israel in vaccinating its people.
Consequently, the French president’s popularity is sagging. And that loss of popularity is being accompanied by a consequent rise in the popularity of the right. His dismal 58 percent disapproval rating is threatening to sink his chances before next year’s presidential election.
So Macron took to the hustings yesterday trying to shore up support. He went to a small village in the southeast of France and on his way back to his plane, he decided to greet some onlookers standing at a rope line.
Emmanuel Macron giflé: un témoin BFMTV filme l’agression d’un autre angle pic.twitter.com/mP907RtTki
— BFMTV (@BFMTV) June 8, 2021
The slapper yelled, “Montjoie Saint-Denis, à bas la Macronie.”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 French media is turning the incident into their very own January 6 riot.
French news channels played the video and analyzed the incident nonstop. Some commentators questioned whether the security around Macron was good enough. Others said the president had taken a risk because he got back out of the car to go shake people’s hands — an act that wasn’t planned.
Most commentators agreed that a French president must be able to get out and circulate among the people.
Citing France’s traditions of free expression and democracy, Macron told Le Dauphiné Libéré that the responsibility that goes with those freedoms means there should be no violence or hatred in speech or in actions.
Next, watch the French parliament convene a commission to study the incident and the “right-wing violence” that precipitated it.
The young man who slapped Macron was apparently a member of the “Yellow Vest” movement, which took over Paris and several other French cities in late 2019 and early 2020.
The man arrested for the slap, who has been named as Damien T., appears to practise medieval combat and follows several prominent far-right influencers online, according to social media accounts in his name.
A friend, who was filmed next to him by a television crew shortly before the incident, told AFP he was astonished by what happened.
“This isn’t someone who’s violent,” said 36-year-old Loic Dauriac, who was not present when Macron was slapped.
Macron holds a narrow lead over National Rally’s Marine Le Pen while Macron’s party, En March, is expected to fare poorly in regional elections later this year. The upheaval in France is mirrored across the industrialized world and given France’s long and illustrious history of political violence by the left, things will likely only get worse for Macron.