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One Of Emmanuel Macron's Aides Has Been Detained By Police After He Was Filmed Beating A Protester

Alexandre Benalla, who was filmed beating a man during May Day protests, is set to be dismissed after an investigation was launched into the incident.

Last updated on July 20, 2018, at 5:48 a.m. ET

Posted on July 19, 2018, at 9:37 a.m. ET

French president Emmanuel Macron and Alexandre Benalla (right).
Reuters

French president Emmanuel Macron and Alexandre Benalla (right).

A senior aide to French President Emmanuel Macron has been placed in police custody and is set to lose his job after it emerged he dressed in police riot gear and assaulted a protester in May — and was initially let off with only a brief suspension.

Alexandre Benalla, who is in charge of security for Macron's engagements, has been detained while an investigation into the incident is carried out, the Paris prosecutor's office told reporters on Friday.

He was identified by French newspaper Le Monde from a video filmed during an anti-government demonstration in Paris on May 1. The video was originally posted by a socialist activist.

Benalla, who is not a police officer, is seen wearing a police visor and grabbing a young woman by the neck and forcibly moving her, before hitting a man who had already been tackled to the ground.

🔴🔴🔴🔴 ALERTA VIOLENCES POLICIÈRES DES POLICIERS TABASSENT ET GAZENT TOUT LE MONDE PLACE CONTREESCARPE !! FAITES TOURNER IL FAUT QUE TOUT LE MONDE VOIT !! #ViolencesPolicieres #1erMai https://t.co/Dabr6HHwyJ

Macron came under fire on Thursday after it transpired that Benalla's punishment at the time was a 15-day suspension without pay.

When asked by reporters on Thursday whether France had been damaged by the affair, Macron said: "The Republic is unalterable."

Bruno Roger-Petit, a spokesperson for the Élysée Palace — France's version of the White House — said on Thursday Benalla had "been given permission to witness the demonstrations only as an observer."

“Clearly, he went beyond this. ... He was immediately summoned by the president’s chief of staff and given a 15-day suspension. This comes as a punishment for unacceptable behavior,” he said.

However, the Paris prosecutor only became aware of the incident with the publication of Le Monde's article, and subsequently launched an investigation into the incident.

Benalla is being held over alleged violent acts as a public servant, illegal assumption of police duties and wearing of police badges, as well as complicity in unlawful use of CCTV video.

The Élysée said proceedings for his dismissal had begun after "new elements" emerged in the case, according to AFP.

Benalla pictured during the May Day rally in Paris.
Philippe Wojazer / Reuters

Benalla pictured during the May Day rally in Paris.

Another police officer who accompanied Benalla was also suspended for "exceeding his authorisation in the same way," Roger-Petit added.

Macron's initial response to the incident was met with outrage from some politicians.

"'Inalterable?' The Republic must above all be exemplary," said Guillaume Garot, a Socialist MP. "Keeping an associate with unworthy behavior close to you is incomprehensible."

"The Élysée must dismiss him immediately. Or rather: should have done..." he added. "No impunity."

« Inaltérable » ? la République doit d’abord être exemplaire. Maintenir auprès de soi un collaborateur au comportement indigne est incompréhensible. La justice doit passer. L’Élysée doit le démettre immédiatement. Ou plutôt : aurait dû... Pas d’impunité. #AlexandreBenalla https://t.co/WLIKfTnGmE

Benoît Hamon, former education minister under François Hollande's Socialist government, said on Twitter that the incident amounted to a "cover-up and disorder at the top of the state."

"Macron cannot refuse to explain himself any longer," he said.

Des faits d’une gravité inédite. Une dissimulation et un désordre au sommet de l’Etat peut-être encore plus graves. Emmanuel Macron ne peut refuser de s’expliquer plus longtemps #AlexandreBenalla

Further to the left, politicians of socialist party La France Insoumise were equally outraged. Alexis Corbière, an MP and spokesperson for the party's leader, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, called for an investigation as soon as the revelations came to light, and for criminal sanctions if the allegations prove to be correct.

"Only 15 days suspension for what is a criminal offence is not acceptable," he wrote on Twitter. "The presidency of the Republic has clearly sought to stifle this case. Justice must be seized."

C'est grave, les faits semblent exacts ! Seulement 15 jours de mise à pied pour ce qui est un délit penal n'est pas acceptable. La présidence de la République a manifestement cherché a étouffer cette affaire. La justice doit être saisie. #AlexandreBenalla https://t.co/kQHhgqEAyW

Politicians on the right also came down hard on Macron. Gilbert Collard, head of a think tank that supports far-right National Rally leader Marine Le Pen, said, "We are no longer in a democracy."

The news comes just days after Benalla was photographed on board a bus with the French football team on Monday, after France won the World Cup final.

Stéphane Ravier, a National Rally senator, was quick to point this out.

"Well, we saw him, with Brigitte Macron and les Bleus, three days ago!" he wrote on Twitter. "The government is digging itself into lies and the grotesque to cover up its rogue methods."

Collaborateur de Macron, #AlexandreBenalla aurait été « écarté », selon le porte-parole de l’Élysée. Or on le voit, avec Brigitte Macron et les Bleus, il y a 3 jours ! Le gouvernement s’enfonce dans le mensonge et le grotesque pour couvrir des méthodes de voyou !

Adrien Quatennens, an LFI MP, tweeted a picture of Benalla on the bus, joking: "Very well, sir! Can I punch the driver to make him go faster?"

« Très bien Monsieur ! Et est-ce que je peux coller un bourre-pif au chauffeur pour qu’il accélère ? » #AlexandreBenalla https://t.co/ssdevCPtsq

BuzzFeed News has reached out to the Élysée for comment.

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