Nude swimmers and angry protesters joined forces on the French Riviera this Monday to protest a local public beach being closed during a visit by billionaire Saudi Royal King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saudon on his three-week summer vacation.
More than 100,000 people have signed a petition against King Salman and his 1000-strong entourage having a stretch of the Mediterranean coast to himself which includes building a staircase and wooden walkways from his holiday home down to the beach.
Mirandole Beach in Vallauris was closed off over the weekend as the King landed on Saturday because of security concerns. Protesters who tried to get near his £5million holiday villa were warned they would be arrested, with a 300-metre radius ban on the area.
Police signage at the beach says, “Access and circulation are forbidden on this public maritime domain and swimming is banned under the right of the residence of the king of Saudi Arabia.”
Francois-Xavier Lauch, of the Alpes-Maritime prefecture, said the closure is consistent with what would happen with a visit by any head of state, whether it was President Francois Hollande or Barack Obama. He insisted that the beach was ‘only ten metres long’ and was usually only visited by a handful of people every day and the visit of the super-rich Saudis would also bring a huge amount of money to the local economy.
Local City Councillor Jean-Noel Falcou who launched the petition calls for the French government to reverse their decision.
“We cannot accept that there is one law for the rich and powerful and one law for everyone else,” Falcou said.
Translated into English, the petition states:
“We recall that this natural area, like any public maritime domain, is an inalienable common good that should benefit all, residents, tourists, French, foreigners, residents or travellers.
“The people who want to come to France have to respect French law, and we are all equal before the law.”
Unauthorised work has also begun to create access from the villa to the beach which has angered locals. The Mayor of Vallauris has written to President Francois Hollande to protest the work, namely a cement platform created on the beach.
The King’s villa is a £5million mansion previously used by Winston Churchill, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, and Marilyn Monroe. The King’s inner circle will be staying at the villa while 700-hundred others will be staying in hotels throughout Cannes.