A 28-year-old man on trial for slapping French President Emmanuel Macron testified on Thursday, June 10, that the attack was impulsive and unplanned and prompted by anger at France’s “decline.”
Damien Tarel faces possible jail time and a fine if found guilty of assaulting a public official at the special emergency trial in the southeastern city of Valence.
Tarel was immediately arrested after the incident, which occurred as the French leader was greeting a crowd in the region on Tuesday.
The man acknowledged hitting the president with a “rather violent” slap. “When I saw his friendly, lying look, I felt disgusted, and I had a violent reaction,” he told the court. “It was an impulsive reaction… I was surprised myself by the violence.”
While he said he and his friends had considered bringing an egg or a cream pie to throw at the president, he said they dropped the idea — and insisted that the slap wasn’t premeditated.
“I think that Emmanuel Macron represents the decline of our country,” he said, without explaining what he meant.
Tarel told the court that he supported the yellow vest economic protest movement that shook Macron’s presidency in 2019. According to the prosecutor’s office, he told investigators that he held right- or ultra-right political convictions without being a member of a party or group.
The charge of violence against a person invested with public authority is punishable by up to 3 years imprisonment and a fine of 45,000 euros ($54,000).
Macron wouldn’t comment Thursday on trial but insisted that “nothing justifies violence in a democratic society, never.”
“It’s not such a big deal to get a slap when you go toward a crowd to say hello to some people who were waiting for a long time,” he said in an interview with broadcaster BFM-TV. “We must not make that stupid and violent act more important than it is.”
At the same time, the president added, “We must not make it banal because anyone with public authority is entitled to respect.”
Another man arrested in the ruckus that followed the slap, identified by the prosecutor as Arthur C., will be judged later, in 2022, for illegal possession of weapons.
The prosecutor’s office said as well as finding weapons, police who searched the home of Arthur C. also found books on the art of war, a copy of Adolf Hitler’s manifesto “Mein Kampf,” and two flags, one symbolizing Communists and another of the Russian revolution.
Neither Tarel nor Arthur C., also 28, had police records, the prosecutor said.