“It’s rather a knight’s bellows”: in Saint-Vallier, relatives of Damien T. surprised by the slap inflicted on Macron

Her hands fly around her blond head, as if to frame her plea. “Yes, of course, he did something stupid”, concedes Sandrine (the first name has been changed), a resident of Saint-Vallier (Drôme), a town of 4,000 inhabitants where lives Damien T, 28 years old, this friend of his son suspected of having inflicted a slap in the face to Emmanuel Macron, Tuesday June 8, during the visit of the President of the Republic in the neighboring town of Tain-l’Hermitage (Drôme).

Placed in police custody since Tuesday, the young man explained that he acted “without thinking” to “express his discontent”, said Wednesday evening Alex Perrin, the prosecutor of Valence. He will be judged this Thursday afternoon in immediate appearance. “At the present time, it would seem that premeditation cannot be retained in the accomplishment of this violent gesture”, developed the prosecutor. The other person in custody, Arthur C, will be summoned later “to answer for offenses related to illegally held weapons” found at his home, said the magistrate.

In Saint-Vallier, the speeches echo identically. “Shouldn’t”, say Valérie, the newspaper seller, Ibrahim, behind the stoves of Cappadocia, Turkish and Italian specialties, or these four high school students, who spray their white baccalaureate in philosophy with Red Bull. This Wednesday, the hometown of Diane de Poitiers, where the television teams were urgently dispatched, speaks only of that: what fly has stung Damien T. and Arthur C., two local children?

Involved in two associations

In the old shopping street in the center, which looks like a toothless mouth, full of empty windows, Evelyne, in her restaurant of African specialties, has her analysis well: “President Macron, he confines us for a year and he returns directly to the contact … Obviously, he takes it all in the head! He should have waited six months. “

Aurélien, the shoemaker proud of his leather apron, made it insomnia. Damien T. is a friend, he confides. “It really surprises me. He is not a bloody person, there is no logic in all of this. I never heard him say anything racist or royalist. »Customers pass by, leave a key, a shoe on the heel less proud than the surrounding hills, planted with vines and apricot trees. “Damien, I’m sure he’s a good guy… otherwise he wouldn’t be doing all this for the city.” “

“All that”, these are the two associations that the young man tried to animate until the Covid put a brake on its activities: on the one hand, “historical European martial arts”, on the other, role-playing games, board games, video games… A den of “geeks” frequented, according to those around him, by about ten regulars.

“They draw their ideas from everywhere”

At 20 rue Wilson, very close to the bridge, the glass door of its local association gives a glimpse of a bazaar for teenage handymen. A few empty beer bottles await sorting. Cardboard boxes and board games are piling up near the photocopier. A large gray table, ideal for reenactments of large figurine battles, eats up space.

Damien is a fan of knights and medieval fantasy. Arthur, who was often seen by regulars locally, was passionate about World War II. Thecopy of “Mein Kampf”, found at his home during the search ? “You have to put it back in this context of passion for everything related to this war,” says Frédéric (the name has been changed), a friend who revolves around this band.

“Politically, it’s difficult to put a label on them. They draw their ideas from everywhere, among the Communists, on the right too, on the left… They reproached Macron for having said that French culture does not exist as such. They also think that the president is in his ivory tower, that he does not realize what people are going through. But they are calm, polite, and not violent people. Both wanted to get more involved in local life, and the revitalization of the city center. Arthur is a member of the neighborhood council.

A precarious professional situation

In the garden of La Galaure, regulars saw regularly, before confinement, a group of young people handling the sword and the dagger, during training sessions guided by Damien T. The young man also led a guided tour of the medieval city center de Saint-Vallier, in a knight’s costume, for the local historical association. “Damien is an artist, moreover he danced for a long time in the class his mother was in charge of”, says Sandrine.

Many in the city also knew his father, a former plasterer painter, who is now deceased. Damien, for his part, has no “situation”, as this retiree with a crossed shopping bag says at noon – rush hour on the bridge. He worked for a time in a funeral director’s company, then took interim assignments at the factory. In recent months, he lived on the RSA, but was thinking about training “in the field of events”, said his girlfriend, also unemployed, who did not wish to answer other questions. The white and gray townhouse, where they live, above the local association, keeps its shutters closed: “She left for a few days to rest far from here, it’s hard for her”, comments Aurélien.

At the Valencia kendo club, where Damien T. has been registered for about five years, “he’s a completely normal practitioner, someone rather discreet, who wants to progress in his sport”, explains its president on the phone, Charles Dehay. In recent years, Damien also went regularly to the city prefecture to hold the café for “manga conventions” in the region. In this universe of fans of Japanese “kawaii” culture, where he met his girlfriend, the almost thirty-something with long hair left a contrasting memory.

“He spoke beautiful and inappropriate, not mean but really awkward, remembers Yanis, 18, who volunteered with him. I found him very moralistic about respecting the law, the rules… It made me funny to see him slap the president! “” He is a very respectful boy, a little shy but spontaneous, sensitive, on the other hand praises the boss of the event, Jérôme Lauzel. When I saw him on TV, with his beard that he didn’t have before, I thought to myself that he must have been bamboozled. “

“Maybe he wanted to exist in front of this other young person”

Ten days ago, Damien T and his friends celebrated the reopening of the terraces, sipping a foam not far from the river, as before the Covid. “No change in his behavior or his ideas,” notes his friend Frédéric. “We had only one drink, then we went to have a bite to eat, and play a game. We were happy to find our old habits”.

All the friends we have been able to interview interpret the “Montjoie! St Denis ! “ heard on the video of the slap, like… a reflex of a geek too accustomed to role-playing games. “The slap too, it is rather a knight’s slap: perhaps he wanted to exist in front of this other young person who is the President of the Republic”, thinks Sandrine, the mother of his friend, without s ‘prevent smiling. In a corner of the living room, a huge (plastic) sword awaits a next fight, for fakes.

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