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Macron under fire after aide caught attacking protester

French President Emmanuel Macron came under fire yesterday after his office suspended one of his aides who was caught on camera striking a May Day protester, but did not inform law enforcement authorities.Critics said the incident reinforced perceptions of a leader out of touch with ordinary people in France, coming on the heels of controversies over government spending on official crockery, a swimming pool built at a presidential retreat, and cutting remarks by Macron about the costs of welfare.A video from a May Day rally released by Le Monde newspaper showed a man wearing a police helmet and identification tag dragging a woman away and then striking a demonstrator. He was later recognized as a member of the French presidency staff.“The staff member, Alexandre Benalla, had been given permission to witness the demonstrations only as an observer,” presidential spokesman Bruno Roger-Petit said in a hastily arranged video statement.“Clearly, he went beyond this. He was immediately summoned by the president’s chief of staff and given a 15-day suspension.“This came as punishment for unacceptable behavior.”The Paris prosecutor, which was unaware of the matter before yesterday, launched a preliminary investigation against Benalla on suspicion of violence, usurping the function of a police officer and using signs reserved for public authorities.On a trip to southwestern France yesterday, Macron declined to answer questions from reporters on the subject.The presidency’s handling of the matter was condemned by opposition parties, which argued that not only was the punishment too lenient but that the incident should have promptly referred to judicial authorities.“This video is shocking,” Laurent Wauquiez, president of the conservative Republicains, told Europe 1 radio.“Today we have the feeling that in Macron’s entourage one is above the law.”
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