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Valls, 54, who was walking past a group of people in the town of Lamballe after coming out of the municipal offices, appeared to first shake hands with the youth who said something and then appeared to try to slap the former prime minister.
As Valls recoiled, a security guard seized the youth, in a choke-hold, pushed him back against a fence and then forced him to the ground, the video aired by Le Telegramme showed.
Police said later that the youth was aged 18 and had been detained.
Valls, who is running in the Left’s primaries on Sunday to be a candidate for president, did not appear to have been hurt in the incident.
Valls, speaking to local reporters shortly after the incident, said: “I have never been afraid of having contact with French people. Democracy can never mean violence.”