France is deploying 13,200 police officers and gendarmes backed by soldiers and drones to make sure protesters stay away from the August 24-26 meeting, and cannot get up close to any of the leaders attending the summit. “The aim is to have maximum security with a minimum of disruption. We will not tolerate any serious trouble. If it happens, we will respond,” Interior Minister Christophe Castaner told a news conference on Tuesday. “It is not because we have any particular intelligence but because there is a culture of violence at these events and we remember the past,” Mr Castaner continued.
No protest groups have announced plans to storm the summit, but Mr Castaner said security forces were taking no chances against the threat of civil unrest, terrorism and cyber criminals.
He said that authorities were aware of the “terror threat” that clouds such events, but stressed there was “no particular alert”.
French President Emmanuel Macron had already warned in May that security in the southwestern city of Biarritz would be “unprecedented” and “extremely heavy”.
The G7 groups France, the United States, Britain, Germany, Canada, Japan and Italy. Seven other world leaders have also been invited.
In addition to the beefed-up police presence, Biarritz’s airport and train station will both be closed, streets barricaded, the main beach closed to the public and residents will be forced to show badges to access their homes.
Authorities are however allowing campaign groups and demonstrators to gather in the nearby towns of Hendaye and Irun, located near the France-Spain border some 30 kilometres (18.6 miles) away.
There they will hold a “counter summit” to discuss a range of topics, including the end of capitalism, climate change, the fight for social justice and women’s rights.
The counter-summit will conclude with a protest in Hendaye on Saturday, as the world leaders arrive in Biarritz.
French police will be under massive pressure to maintain order without resorting to the heavy-handed tactics that sometimes marred their response to the yellow vest street rebellion.
The anti-government protests rocked France late last year and throughout the first half of 2019, challenging Mr Macron’s authority and forcing him into major policy U-turns.
The movement, named after the bright yellow jackets all French motorists must carry, began in mid-November over planned fuel tax hikes but rapidly morphed into a sometimes-violent revolt against the Macron government, widely seen as arrogant and out of touch with regular citizens.
However, any drama at the G7 summit is more likely to involve world leaders, with US President Donald Trump at loggerheads with his allies over global trade, climate change and Iran, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s repeated threats to pull Britain out of the bloc without a deal on October 31 unless Brussels reopens negotiations.