Macron under fire after video shows security aide beating protester

Frederick Owens
July 20, 2018

One of Emmanuel Macron's top security officers is at the centre of a potentially damaging scandal for the French president after being filmed hitting a protester.

Critics say the incident reinforces the image of Macron as a man out of touch with the French people.

The video of the May 1 event in Paris, revealed by French newspaper Le Monde, shows Alexandre Benalla in a helmet with police markings, and surrounded by riot police, brutally dragging off a woman from a demonstration and then repeatedly beating a young man on the ground.

Also on Friday, prosecutors said Vincent Crase, a security aide for Macron's Republic on the Move party and an associate of Benalla's who also intervened during the May 1 protest, was also taken into custody.

Shortly afterwards he returns to the scene, attacking another protester who had been carried a short distance by police before being left alone on the ground.

"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 behaviour".

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Opposition parties condemned the presidency's handling of the matter, demanding answers as to why the incident had not been referred promptly to judicial authorities.

The president's office brushed off accusations that it had responded only because the almost three-month-old videos had become public.

"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 video statement.

Despite this Mr Macron faced allegations he was trying to "hush the affair" from Laurent Wauquiez, who is the head of main conservative party the Republicans. After hours of debate in the lower house on Thursday, lawmakers agreed to launch a parliamentary inquiry into the case. Today, we have the feeling that in Macron's entourage, one is above the law.

Formerly an employee of a private security firm, Mr Benalla had worked with other French politicians in the past - including leading Socialist Martine Aubry and Mr Macron's predecessor in the Elysée, François Hollande. Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, who denounced "shocking images" in the video, said it was now up to the courts to decide.

Labour unions hold demonstrations every year on May 1 in France and clashes with police are not uncommon.

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