Emmanuel Macron has insisted that he will continue to meet with the public despite safety concerns after being attacked during a walk.
The French president spoke as an opinion poll suggested his popularity is increasing. The latest Ifop poll shows that Macron has earned 7 percentage points in the past month and is now viewed favorably by 50% of people.
The Paris Match poll also showed support from far-left presidential candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon plunged 10 points to less than 30% after being accused of spreading conspiracy theories.
Macron is on a political tour France hold two meetings a week outside Paris over the next five weeks ahead of the regional elections at the end of the month.
On Tuesday, during a visit to the Drôme department, the president was slapped while greeting members of the public who had come to see him.
Later, Macron, who was turned away by one of his security members after he seemed to want to confront the man who hit him, was optimistic about the incident.
“Stupidity is one thing, but when stupidity becomes violence it is unacceptable. We must not confuse the two, “he said later, as he strolled with his wife, Brigitte, and surrounded by the crowd.
“Anger I understand. I accept that there is anger that can legitimately be expressed. I am in contact with people regularly. They express their anger and their upset and I am always there [to hear it]. Sometimes I have an answer, sometimes I don’t.
“Aiming for violence? No, not in a democracy ».
He added: “I will continue to go everywhere. We must not give in to violence and in particular violence against civil servants. And we must not waste too much time on this ”.
The Elysée said the incident “will change nothing” regarding Macron’s scheduled visits, adding that life went on “seconds later”.
“It was an isolated incident. We will wait to find out the reasons [the person] had, monarchist or not, and its details, “a spokesman said.
The man who slapped the president, a 28-year-old named just Damien T, was still in police custody on Wednesday.
Investigators said it was not known to them prior to the incident. French media reported that background research revealed that he was subscribed to numerous far-right sites and influencers.
It was also rumored that he was president of two associations devoted to ancient fighting techniques in Europe. A photograph on his Instagram account showed him dressed as a medieval knight with a long sword. This was believed to explain the monarchical slogan that shouted, “Montjoie Saint Denis!”, The war cry of French soldiers in the armies of the Capétien dynasty of the Crusades.
However, Loïc Dauriac, one of Damien T’s friends, provided a more mundane reason for the slogan, suggesting to the AFP that it came from the 1993 comedy Les Visitors, with Jean Réno as the medieval count.
Damien T and a second man arrested with him, Arthur C, also 28, who filmed the incident, will be formally investigated or released on Wednesday or Thursday. Damien T faces a fine of up to € 45,000 (£ 38,000) and up to three years in prison if found guilty of assaulting the president.
Pascal Bitot-Panelli, a former presidential security officer, said impromptu walks by leaders always pose a risk.
“Politicians want to be more in contact with people and this is always a bit risky … but traditionally the president does what he wants”, Bitot-Panelli he told France Televisions.
Security teams had to be “permanently responsive”. He said security officers might advise against certain actions “if a visit could go wrong.”