A woman has been arrested in France and faces a criminal trial for posting a slogan referring to President Emmanuel Macron as ‘garbage’ on Facebook.
The 50-year-old woman named as only Valerie, was placed in police custody for the alleged offence.
She is accused of ‘publicly insulting’ the French President, who has witnessed millions take to the streets in protest to his controversial move to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 without a parliamentary vote.
‘I asked them if it was a joke,’ Valerie told the Voix du Nord (Voice of the North) newspaper. ‘It’s the first time I’ve been arrested.’
The ‘Macron Garbage’ graffiti was outside a waste disposal depot in nearby Arques, and I had simply ‘been photographed in front of it, smiling,’ she said.
Referring at the time to an upcoming television address by Mr. Macron, Valerie also wrote on Facebook: ‘The garbage will talk tomorrow at 1 p.m.., adding: ‘We also find the garbage on TV’.
Valerie is linked to the Yellow Vests anti-Macron movement which brought chaos to France in 2018, but she denies being a troublemaker.
‘I’m an activist for social justice,’ she said. ‘They want to make an example of me. I am not public enemy number one.
‘This is totally unfair. We are going through a period when intimidation is strong, and activists are threatened.’
Human rights laws have complained about police violence and arbitrary arrests, as Mr Macron sends paramilitary units onto the streets to try and quell the violence.
Prosecutors and the Pas-de-Calais prefecture confirmed that an investigation had been opened into Valerie’s Facebook post.
A statement from the prefecture said it has been ‘opened following a complaint filed by the sub-prefect of Saint-Omer with the police station after he became aware of offensive photos and publications targeting the President of the Republic on social media networks’.
Valerie will be tried at the Saint-Omer criminal court on June 20 for ‘insults conveyed by word writing, image or means of electronic communication’ and faces a fine equivalent to around £10,000.