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19 Jul, 2018 14:51

Macron’s aide filmed beating protesters, prosecutors launch preliminary probe (VIDEO)

Paris prosecutors kicked off a preliminary probe after an aide to French President Emmanuel Macron was filmed beating demonstrators during this year’s May Day rally, Le Monde reports.

Announced Thursday morning, the investigation will focus on incidents of “violence by someone charged with a public service mission,” a judicial official said, without naming the aide in question, according to the French daily.

The identity of the man behind one of the worst scandals to rock the Macron presidency, Alexandre Benalla was revealed by the respective newspaper on Wednesday. It pinpointed the politician while scrutinizing social media footage taken by left-wing activists who had turned out to protest the president’s economic reforms at this year’s annual May Day event.

During the incident Benalla, wearing a riot helmet and dark clothing, is first shown dragging a female student protestor away from riot police trying to disperse a crowd in Paris’s Latin Quarter using pepper spray, shields and batons. He then returns to help an undercover officer dragging a fallen male protester, repeatedly hitting him and grabbing him by the neck in an attempt to drag him away from police lines.

Upon noticing that he was being filmed by activists, Benalla retreats from the action finding sanctuary in a nearby cafe. At no point during the footage did riot police intervene in Benalla’s actions.

After hearing of Benalla’s conduct a number of days later, Macron suspended him without pay from his duties for 15 days, up until May 19. He was then assigned to an administrative role organising the security of events “inside the Palace,” according to the Mail Online. Prior to the incident he had served an assistant to Macron’s chief of staff.

The suspension and minor demoted has been lambasted by critics caused a presidential spokesperson to defend the punishment as the “most serious” ever given at the presidential palace, AP says.

National Assembly member and spokesperson for the leftist heavyweight politician Jean-Luc Melenchon, Alexis Corbiére, condemned the incident as “absolutely scandalous” and demanded “criminal sanctions” be taken against the perpetrator, when speaking to BFM TV as news of the scandal broke on Wednesday.

“A man disguised himself as a policeman and beat demonstrators. It's a criminal offense!," he later reiterated on Twitter.

The scolding hasn’t lasted long, however, with Benalla pictured out and about in footage posted by BFM TV, overseeing the security of the French football team’s bus during their victorious return from the World Cup on the Champs-Elysees on Monday.

Asking why does the “Presidency of the Republic want to smother this affair?,” Corbiére said: “Every citizen must have confidence in the police. No one can impersonate the police!"

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