Macron under fire over bodyguard assault scandal

French President Emmanuel Macron has come under fire for the failure of his staff to take action after a member of his bodyguard beat a French student at a rally

 Mr Benalla was supposed to be an observer, officials said - but beat one protester at the scene (Photo: BBC)
Mr Benalla was supposed to be an observer, officials said - but beat one protester at the scene (Photo: BBC)

French President Emmanuel Macron has faced heavy criticism after it was revealed that his office suspended a bodyguard who was caught on camera beating up a protest, but failed to inform the Police.

A video from a May Day protest, released by Le Monde newspaper, showed a man wearing a police riot helmet and identification tag forcefully dragging a woman and then beating a student demonstrator.

The man in the video was later identified as Alexandre Benalla, an Élysée Palace security aide, rather than a serving police officer. Mr Benalla, who was off-duty at the time, had been given permission to attend the rally as an “observer”, according to a presidential spokesperson.

Despite the fact, as reported by a number of French media outlets, that Interior Minister Gerard Collomb was made aware of the footage the day after it was filmed, the bodyguard, who had worked as head of Macron's personal security detail during his presidential campaign, was punished for this violent and abusive behaviour with a mere 15 days without payment.

Shortly following this period, Benalla was brought back into the fold of the President’s immediate entourage, and appears beside Macron during a number of photos of events and private trips, including a skiing holiday last December.

Prosecutors have launched a preliminary investigation into the incident, including a raid on Benalla's house, and the bodyguard could now face a number of charges, including violence by a public official, impersonation of a police officer, and the illegal usage of police badges.

The president’s office has decided to begin Mr Benalla’s dismissal process, but to critics this move comes too late, serving as a sign that the president was out of touch with the public.

This event follows controversies over government spending on official crockery, a swimming pool at a presidential retreat, and cutting remarks by Macron about the cost of welfare.

The incident has dominated French media for the past 24 hours, and the Opposition, critics, and French public are demanding answers as to why the incident was kept silent and not promptly referred to judicial authorities.

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