By ELAINE GANLEY
PARIS (AP) — A top security aide for President Emmanuel Macron, caught on camera beating a protester, has been detained and is being questioned by authorities, while the president’s office has begun the process of firing him following a public backlash.
The fast-moving events followed a day of fierce criticism after the newspaper Le Monde identified Alexandre Benalla as the man wearing a police helmet and beating a young protester on May Day. Questions about whether Macron’s cohorts are above the law were virulently raised in parliament on Thursday.
The presidential Elysee Palace said Thursday that Benalla had been authorized to follow police operations as an observer on his day off. He was suspended for two weeks and given a desk job. However, he maintained his office at the presidential palace.
A video of the May 1 event in Paris shows Benalla, in a helmet with police markings and surrounded by riot police, brutally dragging away a woman from a demonstration and then repeatedly beating a young man on the ground. The man is heard begging him to stop. Another man in civilian clothing had pulled the young man to the ground.
Police, who had pulled the man from the crowd before Benalla took over, didn’t intervene. Benalla then left the scene. The second man was apparently a gendarme in the reserves who Le Monde said had worked with Benalla in the past.
Macron was slammed Thursday for keeping Benalla on the job two-and-a-half months after the May incident.
A judicial official said Friday that Benalla is being questioned on an array of counts ahead of potential charges. Among the counts is violence committed in a group by a person with a public service mission. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation, which was launched Thursday.
The judicial official said the gendarme was detained hours later.
An official at the presidential palace confirmed press reports that the process of firing Benalla from his job had begun and that Macron’s office had new elements in hand justifying the decision, notably Benalla’s possession of a document from police headquarters that he wasn’t authorized to have, procured in an effort to prove his innocence.