French authorities have fined a group of five women for wearing burkinis at a public swimming pool in Grenoble in a protest against anti-Muslim discrimination.
Police say they entered the Jean Bron complex, which is run by city authorities, with some wearing the full-body covering, causing management to evacuate other swimmers.
The women are part of an anti-Islamophobia movement called Citizen’s Alliance that disputes Grenoble’s city-wide ban on burkinis.
Burkinis are banned from many pools in France on grounds of safety and hygiene.
‘We demand the right to choose our swimsuit’
The majority of pools in France also forbid loose swimming shorts for men and expect skin hugging suits and hair caps to be worn by all swimmers.
The group posted a video of one woman managing to get into the pool with a comment saying they “disobeyed the discriminatory regulation by bathing with the swimsuit of their choice.”
“We are demanding the right to choose our swimsuit, whether covering, with long sleeves, short sleeves or even topless,” said the group.
They continued their protest outside the gates of the pool with 30 women blocking the entrance for around two hours.
Annabelle Bretton, the deputy mayor of Grenoble, said the demonstrators were removed from the site “calmly and without violence”.
The women who participated were also banned from entering public pools for two months.
Last year, the French interior ministry ended all subsidies to the Citizen’s Alliance protest movement saying its actions were “militant” and disqualified the group from receiving public money.
Burkinis have been a controversial issue in France since the 2017 national election, when Right-wing parties called for a blanket ban on burkinis and campaigned against the hijab being worn in public places.
This week’s demonstration follows a similar one in June 2019, when women from the same group were ejected from the same pool.
Florian Philippot, a French far-right MEP, said at the time: “We must react firmly to this Islamist coup”.
Eric Piolle, Grenoble’s green Mayor, who is putting himself forward as a candidate for presidential elections coming in April next year, has written to French Prime Minister Jean Castex for a nationwide clarification on this issue.