French Riviera beach closed for Saudi king
More than 100,000 people have signed a petition against the closure of a beach on the French Riviera to allow Saudi King Salman to holiday in private.
The petition insists the public beach in Vallauris should be “available for the benefit of all”.
Authorities sealed off the beach early on Saturday to prevent any protesters from occupying it as King Salman was due to arrive in the area.
The Saudi monarch is expected to stay at his villa for three weeks.
He and his entourage of about 1,000 people arrived at Nice airport on Saturday on board two Saudi Arabian Airlines Boeing 747s.
The king’s inner circle is staying at the villa – between Antibes and Marseille – while about 700 others will stay at hotels in Cannes.
Michel Chevillon, president of an association of Cannes’ hotel managers, said the visit was “clearly good news” for hotels and the local economy.
“These are people with great purchasing power,” he said.
However, the closure of a section of La Mirandole beach beneath the king’s villa has outraged many local residents.
“We recall that this natural zone, like all maritime public estates, is an intrinsic public property that should be available for the benefit of all, residents, tourists, French, foreigners or people passing through,” the petition says.
“We ask the state to guarantee the fundamental principle of the equality of all citizens before the law.”
The mayor of Vallauris has also written to President Francois Hollande in protest at unauthorized work carried out at the property.
A cement platform has been poured on to the beach to provide a lift up to the king’s villa, although the Saudis have promised to remove it when they leave.
“We understand the security reasons and the nation’s greater interest. But nobody can exonerate himself from the laws of the land,” Mayor Michelle Salucki wrote.
There is also a ban on coming within 300m of the villa by sea.
“We’re sick and tired of this messing around,” one local woman said, quoted by AFP news agency.
“I can see it’s normal that you need to guarantee their security, but they should let us go for a swim.” -BBC