French Farmers Block Roads Into Paris
PARIS (AP) _ Roving patrols of protesting farmers briefly disrupted road and rail traffic around Paris today to force France to veto a European-American farm accord, but officials reported only minor traffic disturbances.
″It’s a harassment around Paris and not a siege to starve out Parisians,″ said Jacques Laigneau, president of Rural Coordination, the grassroots group organizing the protest.
He said 10,000 farmers were taking part in the blockade attempt, which isn’t supported by major farm unions.
Police arrested two farmers who allegedly tried to knock over two motorcycle police on the western edge of Paris, the only incident reported.
Hundreds of police were brought in to defend major highways and airports from the roving patrols, which used lines of cars, burning bales of hay and tires and ″escargot operations″ - snail-speed convoys - to upset traffic.
But the National Center for Road Traffic Information reported only sporadic disturbances.
Working in small mobile units, farmers played a cat-and-mouse game with police, pulling up their blockades and moving them when the law arrived.
Rural Coordination hopes to pressure the conservative government ahead of a crucial Sept. 20 meeting of European Community foreign and agricultural ministers, discussing the EC-U.S. accord.
The French government has long threatened to veto the accord, which cuts subsidized agricultural exports by 21 percent, but farm groups want to be sure it doesn’t back down.
France argues the accord is unfair because it requires more concessions from the EC than from the United States, which refuses to renegotiate it.
Agriculture Minister Jean Puech today called on EC partners to reach a ″clear, clean decision to reopen negotiations with the Americans.″
Rural Coordination, made up mainly of cereal growers, carried out a similar blockade with tractors a year ago, but it was dismantled in 24 hours.
The A10 highway west of Paris, the A1 Paris-Lille highway to the north, the A4 in the Seine-et-Marne region to the east and the A6 to the south were among roads briefly blocked with up to 50 cars in each place.