Friday, 17 August, 2018

Macron to fire senior aide who violently struck May Day protester

Emmanuel Macron, flanked by his head of security Alexandre Benalla, during his presidential campaign Emmanuel Macron, flanked by his head of security Alexandre Benalla, during his presidential campaign More
Kenny Thornton | 20 July, 2018, 16:53

His supporters claimed that the punishment handed down to Benalla - suspension without pay for two weeks and a transfer to an administrative job - was appropriate.

The video-taker, Bouhafs, said on French radio, "The man on the ground was harmless and begged Benalla to stop".

Benalla, who is not a policeman and previously worked as a bodyguard, had been given permission to "observe police operations" in central Paris during a day off on the May 1 public holiday, Macron's office said.

Image: Alexandre Benalla dragging a female protester.

Alexis Corbière, an MP for the hard-left France Unbowed party, said Benalla "deserves to be punished with a prison sentence, at least a suspended sentence, and with very heavy sanctions".

He said the punishment was the "most serious" ever given to a top security official at the Elysee Palace.

In this video grab taken on July 19, 2018 from footage filmed on May 1, 2018 shows a man identified as Elysee Chief Security Officer Alexandre Benalla wearing a police visor as he drags away a demonstrator during May 1 protests in Paris. Benalla, who hasn't commented on the matter, handled Macron's security during the presidential campaign. "As a result. the presidency has chose to start Alexandre Benalla's dismissal procedure", the official added.

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The man struck by Benalla, who has not been identified, was a member of the party, Corbiere added.

But Macron has remained silent about a man he knows well.

Condemning the "unacceptable behavior", Macron spokesman Bruno Roger-Petit said that Benalla was also removed from his responsibilities of organizing security for presidential trips - though he maintains his office at the Elysee Palace.

Benalla is believed to be facing an array of criminal charges including "violence committed in a group by a person with a public service mission".

It was unclear why the young man under attack, who wasn't detained, was singled out by police before Benalla intervened.

The scandal coincides with Macron's popularity at a record low, defying analysts' expectations of a post-World Cup bump - with an approval rating of just 39 per cent in a BVA poll carried out on Wednesday and Thursday.

"By not immediately managing a disciplinary problem, Emmanuel Macron now faces a political crisis", wrote the right-wing Le Figaro daily - which usually makes no secret of its admiration for the president.

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