France’s Government Spokesperson Attacked On Campaign Trail, Days Before Election

PARIS (AP) — In the final stretch before a high-stakes French legislative election on July 7, several candidates have reported being attacked on the campaign trail, including government spokesperson Prisca Thevenot.

Thevenot, a candidate for the centrist Ensemble alliance led by President Emmanuel Macron, her deputy and a party activist were putting up election posters near Paris on Wednesday night when a group attacked them, Prime Minister Gabriel Attal said on the social media platform X.

Thevenot was not injured and will continue to campaign, she said on X, but her deputy and the party activist were taken to a hospital. It was not immediately clear what type of injuries they suffered.

The prosecutor’s office said it opened an investigation into an assault with a weapon against a public official, but provided no indication of what the motivation for the attack was.

Four people, including three minors, are in custody, prosecutors said.

“Violence is never the answer,” Thevenot said Thursday in a brief message on X.

Politicians on all sides condemned the attack and others on candidates that have been reported in recent days.

Also on Wednesday, Marie Dauchy, a National Rally candidate in Savoy, said she was assaulted at a food market while campaigning and announced she was abandoning the race. Her party’s leader and three-time presidential candidate, Marine Le Pen, said on X that two men had “cowardly” assaulted Dauchy.

Nicolas Conquer, a candidate for The Republicans, said on social media that he was assaulted while distributing election flyers in the city of Cherbourg on July 2. He was accompanied by a minor when the incident happened, and reported it to police, he said. He gave no other details of the attack.

“Let’s reject the climate of violence and hatred that is taking hold,” Prime Minister Attal said Thursday on X.

“It’s shameful,” Le Pen said in a brief TV interview. “We have a number of candidates that have had to stop their campaign. This climate is deplorable.”

Candidates have complained of both verbal and physical violence in the torrid and polarizing campaign.

A few hours before being targeted, Thevenot had shared her anxiety as a person of color in a “complicated” political climate with French broadcaster TF1.

“I don’t say this only as spokesperson of the government, but more as the daughter of immigrants and mother of mixed-race children,” she said, citing repeated and intensified racism attacks. “They no longer do it anonymously, but with uncovered faces and even with a certain pride.”

A candidate who campaigned in the outskirts of Paris for Macron’s camp was assigned private security guards by her party after she said she was the target of antisemitic abuse.

Many people have voiced concerns that the surge in voter support for the fiercely anti-immigration National Rally has made people feel more comfortable using racist, xenophobic and antisemitic language in public.

Macron called a surprise legislative election on June 9 after his centrist alliance suffered a punishing defeat at the hands of the National Rally in French voting for the European Parliament, plunging the country into a chaotic, sudden legislative campaign.

French newspaper Le Canard Enchaine reported that Fadila Khattabi, the minister for people with disabilities and the daughter of Algerian immigrants, was in tears when she shared a personal story at a ministerial meeting at the Elysée Palace on Monday. “Considering my origins, I am scared of racist speech,” she said, according to the newspaper. “My son, a symbol of republican success, a child of immigration who became a pharmacist, now wants to leave France, out of fear of a National Rally victory.”

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