FRANCE: Farmer Jose Bove Leads New McDonalds Protest

Publisher Name: 
Associated Press

Militant farmer Jose Bove and two thousand supporters returned
Sunday to the same McDonald's restaurant he helped dismantle two years ago, this time
holding a more restrained rally to protest unchecked globalization and demand support for
farmers.

The mustachioed sheep farmer and fellow members of the Farmers' Confederation, a radical
union, rode tractors into the southern town of Millau and surrounded the fast-food restaurant
before addressing the crowd.

Sunday's protest came on the two-year
anniversary of the attack on the Millau
McDonald's, a high-profile demonstration
against the ills of globalization that led to Bove's
conviction in a French court.

About 70 police officers cordoned off the parking
lot to prevent the protesters, many wearing
shirts that read "The world is not merchandise,"
from approaching the McDonald's. Large signs
that read "closed due to threats" were hung on
the restaurant's windows.

Bove and his allies pledged to continue their
protest as long as necessary to gain support
from the French government for farmers hit by a
U.S. surcharge against Roquefort cheese, which
is made in a nearby village.

The protesters have targeted McDonald's as a
symbol of how unchecked globalization can
trample local culture such as French cuisine.

"We are the hostages of the World Trade
Organization and the United States," Bove told
protesters. "We won't leave until negotiations
have begun with the French government."

Bove said his supporters would remain in Millau
until at least Monday evening, depending on
progress made during his discussions with EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy, planned
for Monday in Brussels.

In March, an appeals court in nearby Montpellier upheld a decision ordering Bove to spend
three months in jail for vandalizing the fast-food restaurant on Aug. 12, 1999 while it was
under construction.

Bove remains free pending appeal. He has also been fined for briefly holding three
Agriculture Ministry officials captive in the town of Rodez in 1999.

Bove said he spoke with Agriculture Minister Jean Glavany on Sunday, demanding support
for French farmers hurt by the U.S. surcharge on Roquefort one of the many EU luxury
products that the United States slapped with a surtax after the World Trade Organization
ruled the European Union improperly rejected U.S. hormone-treated beef.

Bove also said he asked for a halt to tests of genetically modified crops in fields in southern
France.

"We've given an ultimatum that if the French government doesn't rip up those fields, we'll do
it ourselves ... as early as this week," he said.

Under a scorching sun, farmers with deep tans and youths in tie-dyed T-shirts called out in
support for Bove as he approached the restaurant in a blue Ford tractor with a pipe in his
mouth.

A marching band dressed in African-style batik clothes played jazz near the restaurant,
nestled on a hillside overlooking Millau and the Tarn River.

Cars filled the parking lot at the Millau McDonald's on Saturday evening, but many diners
were unaware of the protest scheduled for Sunday. Some were sympathetic to Bove's
crusade against "malbouffe" or "foul food" while others insisted the attack against
McDonald's was just an anti-American ploy.

"I agree with the battle against bad food, but not the methods (Bove) used," said Thierry
Ciabatti, 37, a visitor from Nice, who was eating a Big Mac on the restaurant patio.

"McDonald's is a bad habit for kids, and it leads to loss of our culinary heritage but the
reason they attack here is because they know it will make a big splash."

AMP Section Name:Trade Justice