Jun 10, 2021 - World

Man who slapped Macron sentenced to 4 months in prison

Emmanuel Macron speaks to journalists at the Hospitality school in Tain l'Hermitage on June 8, 2021

President Macron speaks to journalists on June 8. Photo: Philippe Desmazes/AFP via Getty Images

The man who slapped French President Emmanuel Macron while he was shaking hands with members of the public Tuesday was sentenced to four months in prison on Thursday, Reuters reports.

The state of play: Damien Tarel, 28, was charged with assault of a public official and given a sentence of 18 months by the court, 14 of which were suspended, per Reuters.

  • During his trial, which had been fast-tracked, Tarel said that he believed Macron represented the "decline" of France but that his actions of Tuesday were impulsive and not premeditated.
  • "When I saw his friendly, lying look, I felt disgust, and I had a violent reaction,” he told the court, per AP. “It was an impulsive reaction."

The big picture: The incident, which was recorded on video, occurred during Macron's visit to the small town of Tain-l’Hermitage, in southern France.

  • In the video, a voice is heard shouting, “Montjoie! Saint Denis!” — a centuries-old royalist war cry — as well as “a bas la Macronie,” or “down with Macron," reports the AP.
  • Macron described the incident as an "isolated" one on Tuesday, adding that "stupidity and violence" have no place in a democracy, per AP.
  • "The incident took place in a tense and increasingly polarised political climate in France, weeks ahead of regional elections and less than a year before presidential polls," according to Agence France-Presse.

Why it matters: The attack has drawn renewed attention to the far-right in France.

  • Tarel is described to have an interest in "far-right and monarchist figures, as well as medieval French history," reports the BBC.
  • He told the court during his trial that he had supported France's anti-government "yellow vest" movement and told investigators that he held "right- or ultra-right political convictions," though he didn't belong to a particular political party, per AP.

Tarel was arrested alongside a second man who got caught up in the incident, identified only as Arthur C., reports AP.

  • This second man will have a trial in 2022 for illegal possession of weapons. When investigators searched his home, they found weapons, a copy of Hitler's "Mein Kampf," and a communist flag, prosecutors said, per AP.
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