Medieval role-playing enthusiast who slapped President Macron says he did it ‘instinctively without thinking, to express his annoyance’ ahead of court appearance where he faces three-year jail term
- Damien Tarel, 28, has been in custody since Tuesday after striking Macron as he went to greet voters in the village of Tain-l’Hermitage, in the Drome region
- ‘He contends that he acted instinctively and ‘without thinking’ to express his annoyance,’ a statement from the local prosecutor’s office said last night
- House Tarel shares with mum was searched by cops, revealing stash of comic books, combat games, Hitler’s autobiographical manifesto and a Soviet flag
- On Instagram, he is seen parading in armour or donning robes at re-enactments
A medieval role-playing enthusiast who slapped Emmanuel Macron has said he did it ‘without thinking,’ ahead of a court appearance today where he faces a three-year jail term.
Damien Tarel, 28, has been in custody since Tuesday after striking Macron as the French president went to greet voters in the village of Tain-l’Hermitage.
‘He contends that he acted instinctively and “without thinking” to express his annoyance,’ a statement from the local prosecutor’s office said last night ahead of Tarel’s appearance before magistrates in Valence.
Tarel, described by friends as usually shy and placid, also told investigators that he sympathised with anti-Macron Yellow Vest protests and leaned to the right or far-right in his political views, but had no party affiliation.
Police searched the home he shares with his mother and discovered weapons, a Soviet flag, a copy of Mein Kampf, fantasy novels, Japanese comics and military simulation games, according to an investigating source.
The grievous security breach has overshadowed the start of a Macron’s ‘Tour de France,’ intended to gauge public opinion after a year of lockdowns, and drew condemnation from across the political spectrum.
Macron shrugged off the assault, calling it an ‘isolated event’, and he has vowed to continue meting voters despite concerns for his personal security.
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Damien Tarel is a medieval enthusiast whose social media reveals him wearing clothing of the era and participating in re-enactments
Tarel, wearing a green t-shirt and white mask, is seen slapping Macron across the face as bodyguards leap in to intervene
French President Emmanuel Macron was slapped across the face by a man during a trip to southeast France on Tuesday, an aide said.
The president is hauled away to safety after being struck as his guards bundle the attacker to the ground
Macron looks at his attacker as bodyguards move in to tackle the assailant
His friend, named only as Arthur C., was arrested at the same time on Tuesday having filmed the slap, but will not be charged over the incident, the prosecutor said.
In the immediate aftermath, a police source had claimed Tarel was an ‘anarchist,’ but detectives are now working on the basis he subscribes to a sort of ‘ideological mush,’ Le Parisien newspaper reported.
A source close to the investigation described him as someone who was ‘a bit lost, a bit geeky, a bit of a gamer’.
His Instagram account shows him donning armour and wielding swords, posing on hay bales in robes and a velvet beret, and wearing a helmet used in the Japanese martial art of Kendo.
Tarel managed a local club of martial arts enthusiasts focused on the practice of historical European martial arts, including traditional swordsmanship.
A source told Le Parisien he lives ‘in a kind of parallel world made of role-playing games, simulations of medieval fights.’
He and Arthur C. travelled from their home town Saint-Vallier to the village of Tain-l’Hermitage, about 10 miles south along the Rhone, where Macron was greeting voters.
They had been attending a Yellow Vest protest which took place in the nearby town of Valence at around midday, according to L’Obs magazine.
At some point in the day the pair, along with another friend who was not arrested, were chatted to by a journalist who asked them what they thought of the president being in town.
Tarel is seen standing next to the man in the video who tells the reporter he is an ‘anarchist’ and references the ‘decline of France.’
He adds that he cannot say anything more, claiming that the media often misconstrues such views.
At around 1.15pm on Tuesday, Tarel was seen standing at barriers outside the Tain-l’Hermitage culinary school which Macron had been visiting.
Macron came over to greet him and he appeared to be stopping the president for a chat, taking hold of his arm before lashing out with a slap, shouting: ‘Montjoie Saint Denis,’ an old royalist war cry, ‘A Bas La Macronie’ (‘Down with Macronia’).
Tarel in a suit of plate armour carries a shield at a re-enactment
Tarel hugging a tree in a post from Instagram. A source told Le Parisien he lives ‘in a kind of parallel world made of role-playing games, simulations of medieval fights.’
Detectives are now working on the basis he subscribes to a sort of ‘ideological mush,’ Le Parisien newspaper reported
Bodyguards quickly seized upon the assailant and bundled him to the ground before dragging him away, as Macron was pulled to safety by a member of the security detail.
A few seconds later, Macron returned to the barriers to get a word in, although it was unclear what he was saying.
Macron said he had not feared for his safety, and continued shaking hands with members of the public after he was struck.
In an interview with the Dauphine Libere newspaper afterwards, Macron said: ‘You cannot have violence, or hate, either in speech or actions. Otherwise, it’s democracy itself that is threatened.’
Sources claimed Tarel and Arthur C. are ‘marginal’ members of their local community, ‘without jobs.’
Tarel follows both right-wing and and left-wing YouTube channels, among others which are focused on Japanese Manga comic books and historical combat.
One of the channels he follows is called Media for All and is hosted by Vincent Lapierre, who rose to prominence with his coverage of the Yellow Vest protests in 2018 – which he openly supported.
Two people were arrested following the incident in the village of Tain-l’Hermitage in the Drome region where Macron had been meeting restaurateurs and students to talk about how life is returning to normal after the Covid restrictions were eased
Another YouTuber followed by Tarel is Papicito, a 35-year-old fan of comics who has trenchant positions against immigration and released a controversial video earlier this year of him shooting a ‘liberal’ before repeatedly stabbing him. It has since been removed by YouTube.
Tarel faces a maximum sentence of three years in prison and a fine of 45,000 euros (£38,000).
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