The man who was caught on video slapping French President Emmanuel Macron across the face earlier this week has been handed a four-month prison sentence.
In an emergency trial, Damien Tarel, 28, was found guilty of violence against a person invested with public authority following the incident that occurred in the winemaking town of Tain-l’Hermitage on Tuesday. Macron was conducting a meet-and-greet with members of the public and Tarel was quickly arrested after the swipe.
“When I saw his friendly, lying look, I felt disgust, and I had a violent reaction,” Tarel told a court, according to the Associated Press. “It was an impulsive reaction… I was surprised myself by the violence.”
While Tarel said he and his friends had considered bringing an egg or a cream pie to throw at the president, he said they dropped the idea – and insisted that the slap wasn’t premeditated.
“I think that Emmanuel Macron represents the decline of our country,” Tarel added, without elaborating.
During the incident, Tarel was heard to cry out “Montjoie! Saint Denis!” a centuries-old royalist war cry, before finishing with “A bas la Macronie,” or “Down with Macron.”
The court in the southeastern city of Valence sentenced Tarel Thursday to four months in prison and an additional 14-month suspended sentence, while also banning him from ever holding public office and from owning weapons for five years.
Tarel told the court that he supported the yellow vest economic protest movement that shook Macron’s presidency in 2019. He told investigators that he held right- or ultra-right political convictions without being a member of a party or group, according to the prosecutor’s office.
Macron wouldn’t comment Thursday on the trial, but insisted that “nothing justifies violence in a democratic society, never.”
“It’s not such a big deal to get a slap when you go toward a crowd to say hello to some people who were waiting for a long time,” he said in an interview with broadcaster BFM-TV. “We must not make that stupid and violent act more important than it is.”
At the same time, the president added, “we must not make it banal, because anyone with public authority is entitled to respect.”
Another man arrested in the ruckus that followed the slap, identified by the prosecutor as Arthur C., will be judged at a later date, in 2022, for illegal possession of weapons.
The prosecutor’s office said that in addition to finding weapons, police who searched the home of Arthur C. also found books on the art of war, a copy of Adolf Hitler’s manifesto “Mein Kampf,” and two flags, one symbolizing communists and another of the Russian revolution.
Neither Tarel nor Arthur C., also 28, had police records, the prosecutor said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.