Nice (France) (AFP) – If Emmanuel Macron is hoping for some holiday respite from the anti-government protests which have rocked France, he might want to avoid the presidential retreat on the Mediterranean coast.
Around 40 “yellow vest” demonstrators on Thursday tried to storm the medieval fort of Bregancon that serves as Macron’s summer retreat before being turned back by police, the mayor of nearby Bormes-les-Mimosas, Francois Arizzi, told AFP on Friday.
“It’s madness. For people who want more democracy, they should start by respecting other people’s property,” Arizzi said, saying many of the protesters had tried to infiltrate the fort by crossing private land.
The yellow vest movement has morphed from anger over fuel taxes to a broad rebuke of Macron, accused by critics of neglecting the rising costs of living for many in rural and small-town France.
Bregancon generated some unwanted headlines last summer when it emerged Macron was installing a 34,000 euro ($39,000) swimming pool at the fort, which already has its own private beach.
In theory the site is currently unoccupied, though the presidency has refused to disclose where Macron and his wife Brigitte are spending the holidays.
Press reports have said the president cancelled a planned Christmas skiing trip, possibly at his long-time destination of La Mongie in the Pyrenees, not far from where his grandmother lived while he was growing up.
In Paris, where yellow vest protests have repeatedly descended into clashes with police in recent weeks, further demonstrations were on Saturday and others are planned for New Year’s Eve.
Paris officials have decided to go ahead with the traditional New Year’s Eve fireworks display on the Champs-Elysees avenue — which usually attracts tens of thousands of people — despite the planned protest.
Paris police said in a statement Friday that strict security measures would be in place on the night, including bag and vehicle checks. Alcohol will be banned from the area.
Jeanne d’Hauteserre, mayor of the 8th district of Paris which includes the Champs-Elysees, told BFM television that at least 4,000 police and security forces would be on duty.
Yellow vest protesters “are welcome” to join the celebrations, she said.
Nearly 8,000 people are listed on Facebook as planning to attend the yellow vest New Year’s Eve demonstration, insisting it will be “festive and non-violent”.