Suspect identified as 28-year-old Damien Tarel slapped the French president during a walkabout, a moment that has gone viral on social media.
The man alleged to have slapped French President Emmanuel Macron in the face subscribes to several far-right YouTube channels and is a fan of medieval swordsmanship, media reports and sources close to the investigation said on Wednesday.
A police source identified the suspect as 28-year-old Damien Tarel, who had no previous criminal record.
He remained under investigation in police custody on Wednesday and is expected to be charged with assaulting a public figure, which carries a maximum three-year prison term and a 45,000-euro (nearly $55,000) fine.
Macron, who has been on a tour to take the pulse of the country after the pandemic and less than a year before the next presidential election, was struck on Tuesday during a walkabout in southern France as he greeted a small crowd of onlookers.
Amateur video footage of the assault soon spread on social media.
Tarel, dressed in a khaki T-shirt, can be seen slapping Macron then shouting “Down with Macronia” and “Montjoie, Saint-Denis”, the battle cry of the French army when the country was a monarchy.
A source close to the investigation described Tarel as someone who was “a bit lost, a bit geeky, a bit of a gamer”.
He managed a local club of martial arts enthusiasts focused on the practice of historical European martial arts, including traditional swordsmanship.
Macron said he had not feared for his safety, and continued shaking hands with members of the public after he was struck.
In an interview with the Dauphine Libere newspaper after being slapped, Macron called the incident an “isolated event” and one of “stupidity”.
“You cannot have violence, or hate, either in speech or actions. Otherwise, it’s democracy itself that is threatened,” he said.Macron has been targeted before by disenchanted citizens.
In 2016, when he was economy minister, he was pelted with eggs by hard-left trade unionists over labour reforms and two years later was left shaken after he was heckled by anti-government protesters.
A government spokesman said on Wednesday that the French president will continue to greet crowds during his travels despite the security scare.
“Obviously his trips are going to continue: the president will remain in contact with the French public,” government spokesman Gabriel Attal said on Wednesday.
“It would be completely incomprehensible for people to be deprived of contact with the president because of an isolated individual who wanted to challenge (him),” Attal added.