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Famed Militant Farmer Fits in G-8 Protest

May 31, 2003

ANNEMASSE, France (AP) _ He’s been expelled by Israel and is facing jail time at home, but militant French farmer and activist Jose Bove is still doing what he does best: criticizing the G-8 summit.

The mustachioed sheep farmer is one of the most recognizable faces among the thousands expected to march in protests against the start of the Group of Eight summit in nearby Evian on Sunday.

While he focuses on environmental and agricultural concerns, Bove has found kindred spirits among anti-G-8 protesters and social activists who accuse the world’s wealthy countries of polluting the planet and exploiting the poor.

``The G-8 has no legitimacy,″ Bove told reporters at a ``counter summit″ of activist groups in Annemasse, France’s designated hub of protest for the Evian summit. ``There needs to be resistance.″

Bove is no stranger to controversy. He rose to notoriety four years ago when he and several friends ransacked a McDonald’s restaurant being built in southern France. Israel deported him last year for meeting with Yasser Arafat during a military siege on the Palestinian leader’s West Bank compound.

More recently, a French court has sentenced Bove to ten months in prison for destroying a genetically modified crop plantation. He could be imprisoned by police at any time.

``I don’t think they’ll have the stupidity to arrest me here,″ he said. ``But anything’s possible _ I’m on guard.″

Bove took on McDonald’s as part of his earliest campaign _ against ``malbouffe″ _ or foul food. Since then, he has broadened the fight against genetically modified crops and globalization.

Building on his media successes, Bove has become a fixture of the worldwide anti-globalization movement.

``He maybe goes too far with the media ... but he is courageous,″ said anti-G-8 activist Jean-Luc Fauche, 46, a first grade teacher, as he listened to Bove at the conference.

Bove certainly has his detractors. Critics accuse him of being a professional protester with a history of extremism who cultivates the image of a simple farmer to make himself appear authentic.

Even in his own movement, some say that Bove _ who is about 50 _ is out of touch with younger demonstrators.

``Bove is for older folks and TV _ we don’t care about him,″ said a 17-year-old French protester, Olivier Dugand, wearing a mesh tee-shirt and crew cut. ``We’re young, we don’t need relics.″

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