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PARIS (AP) – French President Emmanuel Macron was hit in the face by a man on Tuesday while visiting a small town in southeast France.
Macron’s office confirmed a video that is widely circulated on the internet.
The French President welcomes the public waiting behind traffic barriers in the small town of Tain-l’Hermitage after attending a high school that trains students to work in hotels and restaurants.
The video shows a man punching Macron in the face and his bodyguards pushing the man away while the French leader is quickly driven from the crime scene.
French news broadcaster BFM TV said two people were arrested by police in the attack.
Macron has not yet commented on the incident and has continued his visit.
In a speech to the National Assembly, Prime Minister Jean Castex said in his comments that “democracy has been targeted by the head of state,” which led to loud applause from legislators of all ranks and standing up as a sign of support.
“Democracy, of course, means debate, dialogue, confrontation of ideas, expressing legitimate differences of opinion, but in no case can it be violence, verbal attacks and even less physical attacks,” said Castex.
Right-wing extremist leader Marine Le Pen condemned on Twitter “the unbearable physical aggression against the President of the Republic”.
Visibly angry, she later said that while Macron was her greatest political opponent, the attack was “deeply, deeply reprehensible”.
Less than a year before France’s next presidential election, and as the country reopens its pandemic-stricken economy, Macron launched a political “Tour de France” last week to visit French regions in the coming months to “get the pulse of Country.”
Macron said in an interview that he wanted to enter into a mass consultation with the French public with people in order to “turn the page” of the pandemic – and prepare his possible campaign for a second term.
The attack follows growing concerns in France about violence against elected officials, particularly following the often violent “yellow vests” economic protest movement that clashed with riot police repeatedly in 2019.
Village mayors and lawmakers have been subjected to physical assault, death threats and harassment.
But France’s well-protected head of state has so far been spared, exacerbating the shock waves that swept through French politics after the attack.
AP writers Elaine Ganley in Paris and John Leicester in Le Pecq, France contributed to the story
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