Even Mr. Macron’s most vehement critics expressed support. Marine Le Pen, the head of the far-right National Rally party and Mr. Macron’s main opponent in next year’s presidential elections, said it was “unacceptable” to physically attack the head of the French Republic.
“I am Emmanuel Macron’s first opponent, but he is the president,” Ms. Le Pen said at a news conference in eastern France. “One can fight him politically, but one cannot be violent in any way against him.”
Mr. Macron has shown an appetite for shaking hands, mingling with crowds, and vigorously debating ordinary citizens on the street, even more so over the past weeks as France lifts pandemic-related restrictions and moves closer to the 2022 presidential election, scheduled for next spring. But his style — part professorial, part adversarial — has sometimes made for rough interactions that quickly go viral and that critics say are proof he is out-of-touch and dismissive.
He once scolded a French student for calling him by nickname, infamously lectured an out-of-work gardener that finding a job was so easy that “if I crossed the street, I’d find you one,” and, as economy minister, snapped back at a union activist that “the best way to pay for a suit is to work.”
More recently, he expressed frustration over criticism of his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic by complaining that France was a country with “66 million prosecutors.”
Mr. Macron has also become the focus of intense anger from those who see him as a pro-business “president of the rich,” especially after the unrest of the Yellow Vest movement, and protesters have on occasion heckled and booed him. In July of last year, one group of angry demonstrators shouted at Mr. Macron and his wife as they were taking an impromptu walk in the Tuileries Garden of Paris.
Strolling up to citizens on the street is much easier for French leaders, whose movements are far less restricted by security services than their American counterparts. In the afternoon following the incident, Mr. Macron was back at it again, chatting with locals and posing for selfies on crowd-packed streets in the city of Valence.