Eiffel Tower protest sparks fear in France

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Just two days ahead of Sunday’s presidential election in France, Paris police have tightened security at the Eiffel Tower after Greenpeace activists scaled the landmark early Friday and hung a political banner from the structure.

In a separate incident, police arrested a “radicalized” man near a military airbase located close to the town of Evreux. According to judicial sources, the arrest was related to a counter-terrorism investigation.

Following attacks by Islamist militants, security chiefs have already assigned extra police to patrol target areas on election day, when centrist Emanuel Macron takes on National Front candidate Marine Le Pen in the culmination of an often acrimonious campaign.

During the past two-and-a-half years, more than 230 people have been killed in attacks by Islamic militants in Paris and other areas of France.

Three days prior to the first round of voting on April 23, a policeman was murdered in central Paris by a gunman in an attack for which ISIS claimed responsibility.

A dozen Greenpeace activists were arrested in Friday’s Eiffel Tower incident after climbing the tower and hanging a banner reading, “Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite” (Liberty, Equality, Fraternity), France’s national motto. “Resist” was printed in large black letters beneath the motto, a message aimed against Le Pen and the National Front Party.

Greenpeace reported that twelve activists posted a 300-square-metre banner at around 7:45 a.m. on Friday.

“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, said on public radio station Francinfo.

Police Prefect Michel Delpuech asserted, “Above and beyond the motives, this publicity stunt, in the current climate, exposes faults in the security arrangements at the Eiffel Tower.”

Following an emergency meeting, Paris City Hall released a statement noting that sniffer dog patrols would be more than doubled, and video-monitoring around the area improved.

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