A relative of French first lady Brigitte Macron has been beaten up outside her family’s chocolate shop in an apparent politically motivated assault that sparked widespread condemnation on Tuesday.
Jean-Baptiste Trogneux was attacked on Monday evening while returning to his apartment above the famed Trogneux chocolate shop in Amiens, northern France.
The 30-year-old was surrounded by anti-government protesters who insulted “the president, his wife and our family” before attacking him physically, the victim’s father, Jean-Alexandre Trogneux, told AFP on Tuesday.
“They’ve crossed the line. I’m flabbergasted,” Trogneux said, later telling the BFM channel that his son had been left with several broken ribs, a head injury and a hand wound.
Brigitte Macron issued a rare statement condemning the “cowardice, stupidity and violence” of the assault, while President Emmanuel Macron called it “unacceptable” as he arrived for a European meeting in Iceland.
“I am in complete solidarity with my family and have been in touch constantly since 11 pm yesterday,” Brigitte Macron added.
Local police said they had arrested eight people over the assault, which took place after protests in the city centre during a televised interview by President Emmanuel Macron on Monday evening.
Brigitte Macron’s family have run the Jean Trogneux chocolate shop in the centre of her home city of Amiens for six generations, specialising in a local almond-based treat known as the Amiens Macaron.
The business has been targeted by protesters during Macron’s six years in power amid rumours — repeatedly denied — that the first family have a financial interest.
Politicians from all sides sent condolences to the first lady, a 70-year-old former school teacher, and condemned the attack.
“Hitting the great-nephew of a politician to target him is an act of cowardice,” hard-left MP Alexis Corbiere, a regular critic of Macron’s policies, said.
The 45-year-old head of state has sparked the biggest demonstrations in a generation this year over reforms to the pension system, which include raising the retirement age from 62 to 64 later this year.
Repeated clashes during the protests, as well as attacks on the offices of local and national elected figures, have sparked debate about whether the country is facing an upsurge in far-right and far-left political violence.
Last week, the mayor of a village in western France made waves by announcing his resignation after a suspected arson attack on his home.
Yannick Morez, from the village of Saint Brevin, had been repeatedly targeted by far-right activists over his support for a local centre for refugees.
During his comments in Iceland, Macron urged fellow politicians to temper their language, including those who had sought to justify vandalism during recent protests as legitimate expressions of public anger against his pension reforms.
“No form of violence is justified because verbal violence leads to physical violence and violence against objects leads to violence against people,” he said in Reykjavik.
He and his 70-year-old wife were left shaken in 2020 when they were surrounded and verbally abused by so-called “Yellow Vest” protesters as they walked in the Tuileries gardens in central Paris.
Interior ministry statistics showed that reported acts of physical or verbal violence against lawmakers increased by 32 percent year-on-year in 2022, when the country held parliamentary and presidential elections.
The Trogneux chocolate business has expanded widely from its base in Amiens, a former industrial city where Brigitte met her future husband in the 1990s while he was a schoolboy and she was teaching him drama.
“The shop is not involved in politics,” Jean-Alexandre Trogneux, the beaten man’s father, told the Courrier Picard local newspaper on Tuesday. “Emmanuel Macron has got nothing to do with our business.
“I don’t understand all these people who continue to hassle us. Some of them even call for boycotts of our shops and products. They’re getting everything mixed up.”
He said shops were regularly vandalised, sales people were insulted, and death threats were received by post.
“We came close to the worst last night,” he told BFM, adding that a neighbour had come down into the street to confront the attackers and protect his son.
“He (the neighbour) told me ‘I’ve never seen such hatred in people’s eyes. I thought they were going to kill him’,” he added.
This story originally appeared on France24