Cannes police arrested nine women for staging a pro-burkini protest on Friday in response to last year’s ban prohibiting overtly religious clothing on the beach and in public swimming pools. The women never made it to the beach and were arrested in front of the Hôtel Martinez, AFP reported.
Although the prohibition of the full-coverage swimwear was overturned by France’s highest administrative court, citing insufficient grounds to justify the dress code, the issue is obviously still a contentious one. Last summer, more than 30 towns banned burkinis, which cover the whole body except for the face, hands, and feet.
The women were bailed out by Rachid Nekkaz, a wealthy Algerian businessman and political activist who is known for his stance against the burkini ban on the French Riviera. Earlier this month, he announced on his Facebook page that he would throw a burkini beach party in order to protest the ban.
Nekkaz chose the date of his beach party to coincide with the 70th annual Cannes Film Festival, which draws high-profile guests from around the world. “The Cannes Film Festival is all about liberty and tolerance,” he told the Local. “It‘s the perfect place to celebrate this ‘newfound freedom’ in the city that was the first to ban the burkini.”
This is not the first time women wearing burkinis in the French Riviera have been arrested or fined. Last year, shortly after the ban was passed, police forced a woman to remove her clothing while she was sunbathing in Nice.
Is this laïcité? Is this what being liberal looks like? Men forcing women to take clothes off? https://t.co/NOT4IcvuF5
— Aisha S Gani (@aishagani) August 23, 2016
Newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron has stated in the past that the ban “was justifiable” only if safety was threatened. “This garment is contrary to the idea that we have of civility and equality between men and women,” he said.
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