During a visit to a tiny town in South-eastern France on Tuesday, French President Emmanuel Macron was slapped in the face by a man. The shocking incident prompted widespread sympathy for French politicians from all sides.

On a tour to Tain-l'Hermitage, in the outskirts of Valence, Macron was walking towards a metal barrier to greet the crowd, when a man clasped his arm and slapped him across his right cheek, France 24 reported. The video of the incident was posted on social media.

The man is seen shouting, asking for the end of "Macronie", a term that is used by the French Media to address Macron's presidency, CNN reported. French media have reported that the man appeared to have yelled “Montjoie! Saint Denis!” a war cry that is centuries-old. He reportedly also yelled “A bas la Macronie,” which translates to "Down with Macron.”

Minutes after the chaos, the policemen rushed in and pulled Macron away from the man, who is seen wearing a green t-shirt in the video. According to French media, two 28-year-old men have been arrested and are being interrogated.

In 2018, far-left lawmaker Éric Coquerel, had become a victim of a similar incident when the royalist call was cried out by someone who hurled a cream pie at him. The extreme-right monarchist group Action Française claimed responsibility for the attack at the time. On Tuesday, Coquerel voiced his support for Macron.

Politicians were quick to condemn the act. Shortly after, Prime Minister Jean Castex addressed the National Assembly that while democracy entailed debate and genuine dissent, "it must never, in any event, imply violence, verbal assault, or even physical attack."

Speaking to Dauphiné Libéré newspaper, the French President urged the media and the country to not allow such incidents to dictate the public debate, BBC reported. “I am doing fine. We must put this incident, which I think is an isolated event, into perspective,” Macron said, and added: “Let’s not let isolated events, ultra-violent individuals... take hold of the public debate: they do not merit it.”

The attack comes amid growing concerns in France about violence directed at elected leaders, especially in the aftermath of the often violent Yellow Vest economic protest movement's clashes with riot police in 2019.

Macron is presently on a campaign for the presidential elections which is less than a year away, and weeks away from regional elections on June 20 and 27.

French President Emmanuel Macron
French President Emmanuel Macron (L) interacts with members of a crowd while visiting Valence on June 8, 2021 during a visit in the French southeastern department of Drôme, the second stage of a nationwide tour ahead of next year's presidential election. Photo by Philippe Desmazes/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

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