French protests as radical Bove gets no pardon
14 Jul 2003 19:47:52 GMT
TOULOUSE, July 14 (Reuters) - Supporters of jailed French farmer-activist Jose Bove staged on Monday noisy demonstrations outside his prison and in central Paris to protest at President Jacques Chirac's failure to pardon the radical folk hero.
Around 1,000 protesters beat sticks on security barriers around Bove's prison in Herault, southern France, while some 50 people draped banners across the famous glass pyramid entrance to Paris's Louvre museum, home of the Mona Lisa.
Another 300 supporters held a protest picnic beneath the Eiffel Tower.
Sympathisers of the walrus-moustached activist, famous for smashing up a McDonald's restaurant to protest at what he called poor quality food, had been hoping Chirac would annul Bove's prison sentence in a traditional Bastille Day amnesty.
But Chirac, who last week personally intervened to trim Bove's 10-month sentence by two months, said in his address that activists had no particular right to break the law.
"Union activists are French citizens like everyone else and must not imagine that their vocation gives them the right to break the law," Chirac said.
"I do not contest Mr Bove's right to develop his ideas, notably his worries about globalisation or GM crops. But acting in a violent way, breaking the law and re-offending does not conform to my idea of a legitimate state," he said.
Bove's arrest in June for destroying genetically-modified rice and maize crops prompted an outcry after police smashed into his Montpellier home and bundled him into a helicopter.
Bove's Confederation Paysanne union had called on supporters to protest outside prisons across France on July 14 -- the anniversary of the 1789 storming of the Bastille prison at the start of the French Revolution.
Police arrested six protesters at the celebration, including three carrying banners in support of militant farmer Jose Bove, who was jailed last month for destroying genetically modified crops. It is illegal to stage demonstrations during the parade.
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