French President Emmanuel Macron is remaining silent about a top government security aide, Alexandre Benalla. Benalla was filmed on May 1st, during the yearly May Day protests / celebrations, choking and stomping a protester while dressed in police clothes.
— BFMTV (@BFMTV) July 22, 2018
Protests being what they are, video and photographs are available from multiple angles. Benalla is seen wearing not only the police visor but also the police armband, without having the legal authorization to do so.
Benalla was put on administrative leave for two weeks after the incident, and was eventually fired. He is facing potential charges which could result in seven years in prison.
Benalla had been provided the visor and armband to aid him in what was to be an observational role only, but stepped in to aid the police as the demonstrations grew violent. During his efforts to provide aid to law enforcement he was observed to use methods of violence proscribed to police, such as leg sweeping an argumentative woman and stomping on a man already laying on the ground.
Interior Minister Gerard Collomb is to be publicly questioned on Monday to determine if he knew about the violence and attempted to cover it up. Also, three police officers have been arrested for secretly providing the video to Benalla in an attempt to help him mitigate the political damage. (The Local, France)
The situation is politically complicated because many in Macron’s base favor the tactics used, as no permanent injuries were meted out, and the protests were turning violent. Further complicating the issue is the report that the primary victim of Benalla was not legally participating in the protests, as he had illegally migrated from Greece. There are many in Macron’s base who are eager to see all people illegally present in France deported by whatever means are available, even as Macron has studiously rejected the “hard line” stance favored by the National Front. (Guardian) The April immigration bill had been one of the largest rallying points of the May Day protests, and Macron seemingly has no desire to revisit that politically damaging subject.
The combination of events have led to ever-increasing public pressure on Macron to make a statement about Benalla. To date, Macron has not. With the increasing pressure on Theresa May, Macron is shifting to a stronger public presence as a representative of both the EU and of NATO. This is the sort of distraction – physical abuse of the citizenry – that is both unneeded and greatly undesired.