French President Emmanuel Macron was slapped in the face while greeting a crowd in southeast France on Tuesday, a security scare that drew widespread condemnation ahead of regional elections this month.
Video footage on social media showed Macron approach a barrier to meet and shake hands with voters, where a man in a green T-shirt took hold of his elbow and said a few words before slapping him.
Macron’s bodyguards quickly intervened and two people were detained afterward, local officials said.
“At around 1:15 pm (1115 GMT) the president got into his car after visiting a high school, but got back out because onlookers were calling to him,” the prefecture for the Drome region said.
“He went to meet them and that’s when the incident took place,” it said.
Two 28-year-old men living in the region are being questioned, the local prosecutor’s office said, but “at this stage of questioning, their motives remain unknown.”
The assault in the village of Tain-l’Hermitage in the Drome region sparked outrage across the political spectrum and overshadowed what Macron billed as a listening tour to “take the country’s pulse.”
“Politics can never be violence, verbal aggression, much less physical aggression,” Prime Minister Jean Castex told parliament, adding that “through the president, it is democracy that has been targeted.”
Macron continued his trip afterwards, said an aide, who described the incident as an “attempted slap” though video footage appeared to show the man making contact with the president’s face.
On the video of the incident, someone can be heard shouting “Down with Macronism!”