VALLAURIS, France, July 26 (UPI) — More than 100,000 people have signed a petition against a decision to close a strip of beach in France for personal use by the visiting king of Saudi Arabia.
The beach is located on the French Riviera in the town of Vallauris, on the Mediterranean coast between Cannes and Antibes.
“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 reads, according to the BBC. “We ask the state to guarantee the fundamental principle of the equality of all citizens before the law.”
Last week, officials in Vallauris said a strip of sand on the beach near King Salman’s holiday villa would be restricted from public access for the duration of his visit, and the coast guard said vessels would be barred from moving within 984 feet of La Mirandole beach, where the villa is located.
Officials told reporters the measures were being implemented for security reasons, and that any visiting heads of state would receive the same treatment.
King Salman reportedly landed at the Nice airport Saturday with a 1,000-strong entourage, 700 of whom will stay at hotels in Cannes while the king’s inner circle will lodge at his villa. Their stay is expected to last three weeks.
The BBC quoted Michel Chevillon, president of an association of Cannes’ hotel managers, as saying the king’s visit was “clearly good news,” as he and his entourage were “people with great purchasing power.”
Several locals, however, expressed anger over the closure and by the construction of a private gate and elevator allowing the king direct access to the shore.
“Not only were they installing a gate on public property, but also pouring cement on the beach to install an elevator linking the house and the beach,” Vallauris town councilor Jean Noel Falcou, the head of a local environmental protection association, told CNN.
The mayor of Vallauris, Michelle Salucki, wrote to President Francois Hollande to protest the unauthorized work. “We understand the security reasons and the nation’s greater interest,” the BBC reported Salucki as writing. “But nobody can exonerate himself from the laws of the land.”