A man slapped French President Emmanuel Macron’s face on Tuesday during a tour in southern France, footage of the incident circulating on social media showed.
Mr Macron was seen in the footage stretching his hands to greet a man in a small crowd of onlookers.
Rather than receive the handshake, the man, who was dressed in a green T-shirt, glasses and a face mask, held Mr Macron’s outstretched hand before slapping the left side of the president’s face, shouting “A Bas La Macronie,” meaning “Down with Macronia.”
He could also be heard shouting “Montjoie Saint Denis”, the battle cry of the French army when the country was still a monarchy, Reuters reported.
Two of Mr Macron’s security details charged at the unnamed white man, held him to the ground as another ushered the president away. Local mayor, Xavier Angeli, told franceinfo radio that the president urged his orderly to “leave him, leave him.”
While the identity of the man or his intent remains unclear, BFM TV and RMC radio reported that two people have been arrested.
“The man who tried to slap the president and another individual are currently being questioned by the gendarmerie,” the regional ofice said in a statement, according to AFP.
“Around 1:15 p.m., the president got back into his car after visiting a high school and came back out because onlookers were calling out to him,” it said.
Dressed in his trademark white sleeved shirt, Mr Macron was on a walkabout in the village of Tain-l’Hermitage in the Drome region to meet restaurateurs and students in order to feel “the country’s pulse” before next year’s presidential election.
The incident was condemned by Prime Minister Jean Castex, saying it was an affront to democracy.
“Democracy can never be about violence, verbal aggression, and even less about physical aggression. I call for a republican awakening, we are all concerned, the foundations of our democracy are at stake,” Reuters reported Mr Castex as telling the parliament.
Far-right leader and the president’s critic Marine Le Pen, seen as Mr Macron’s main challenger in 2022, also criticized the attack
“I am Emmanuel Macron’s No. 1 opponent, but he is the president. We can fight him politically but we cannot allow the slightest violence towards him,” she wrote on Twitter.
In 2016, Mr Macron, then economy minister at the time, was pelted with eggs by hard-left trade unionists during a strike against labour reforms, according to Reuters. Two years later, anti-government “yellow vest” protesters heckled and booed him in an incident that government allies said left the president shaken.