Greenpeace activists unfurled a political banner in broad daylight on the Eiffel Tower in Paris creating security concerns among the city’s police ahead of Sunday’s presidential elections.
Paris’s police chief called emergency talks after a dozen activists from the advocacy group climbed the north face of the vast metal-lattice structure, one of the world’s most visited sites, to hang a banner carrying the French national motto, “Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite” (Liberty, Equality, Fraternity).
The incident exposed security concerns despite the fact that France is deploying extra police for voting day on Sunday. These come on top of thousands of police and soldiers mobilized following attacks by militants which have killed more than 230 people in France in the past two-and-a-half years.
“Above and beyond the motives, this publicity stunt, in the current climate, exposes faults in the security arrangements at the Eiffel Tower,” police prefect Michel Delpuech said.
At least three in four of France’s 47 million voters are set to go to polling stations throughout the day on Sunday to cast a ballot in a contest where centrist Emmanuel Macron is tipped to beat far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen.
The Eiffel Tower, in the heart of the capital nears the banks of the Seine River, attracts nearly 7 million visitors a year, not far short of 20,000 a day on average, according to its operators.
A dozen Greenpeace activists were detained for questioning, police sources said.
Beneath the French republican slogan in large black letters was the word “Resist”, a message directed against Le Pen and her party.
Greenpeace said a dozen activists were involved, hoisting a 300-square-metre banner at around 7:45 a.m, which is before normal business hours but well after dawn has broken at this time of year.
“We wanted to say we are against the rise of nationalism and authoritarianism in France and in other countries,” Greenpeace France’s head, Jean-Francois Julliard, added on public radio station francinfo.
It is “a warning against Marine Le Pen’s program and the dangers it poses for NGOs and others,” Julliard told reporters.
Defending basic rights “is critical to continuing our environmental struggle,” he added.
Earlier, Macron revealed that he had chosen as his prime minister someone with enough political experience to help bring together a legislative majority but refused to name his choice.
Despite a testy debate with Le Pen on Wednesday, Macron insisted that — should he win — she would be the first person he would call.
For her part, Le Pen said her anger during the debate is a reflection of the anger she sees throughout France.
In the last day of campaigning before the elections, Le Pen acknowledged the testy debate, criticizing Macron as the candidate of the elite and said the French have had enough of their political and economic situation.
An Opinionway poll later on Friday saw Macron beating Le Pen by 62 percent to 38 percent of Sunday’s vote.