The Yellow Vest protester has denied deliberately calling Emmanuel Macron ?trash? on social media
Valerie, a French woman from Saint-Martin, is facing jail time for allegedly referring to President Emmanuel Macron as 'trash' on social media, she told local outlet La Voix du Nord on Tuesday.
Charged with contempt of a public official, she insists she didn't even mean to describe Macron that way, blaming her phone's autocorrect, and claims the government is "making an example" of her.
The Yellow Vest protester was arrested on Friday after three police officers appeared at her apartment door, she told the news outlet. Demanding to know if it was a prank - she had never been arrested before, she said - Valerie was taken to the local police station, where she was reportedly told she was suspected of writing "Macron ordure" (Macron trash) on a wall in Arques.
"I was just photographed in front of it, smiling," she explained, denying the accusation.
She was also confronted with a Facebook post from earlier that week, which read, "The trash will speak tomorrow at 1pm, for the people who are nothing, it is always on TV that we find trash." It was dated the day before Macron was scheduled to give a televised interview to two major French news outlets.
However, Valerie told La Voix du Nord she had not meant to call Macron trash, blaming her phone's autocorrect for messing up an attempted play on words. She meant to write "hard gold" (l'or dur) but it changed to "trash" (l'ordure), she explained, but neglected to proofread before sending. The police were not convinced.
While Valerie acknowledged that she posts "a lot of videos of police violence or political violence" and speaks her mind on social media, she insisted that she always complies with the law.
Still, she said, she regularly comes across posts like hers insulting Macron in the same way, and few if any are ever prosecuted. "They want to make an example of me. I am not public enemy number one," she said.
Despite the arrest, she has vowed to continue protesting against "this totally unfair pension reform," in reference to Macron's latest austerity measure raising the retirement age by two years, which has proven enormously unpopular with the French. Weeks of violent protests and a heavy-handed police crackdown have roiled the country, while two attempted no-confidence votes failed to unseat Macron's beleaguered government.
Amnesty International recently condemned the French government for convicting thousands of people on "contempt of public officials" charges similar to Valerie's every year, using the offense to quash peaceful dissent even as the Elysee waxed poetic about freedom of speech.