Business & Economy

Tensions rise between French government and farmers in second week of protests

By Luis Miguel Pascual

Paris, Jan 31 (EFE). – Tensions between French farmers and law enforcement escalated on Wednesday after some demostrators were arrested when they tried to enter Rungis, the largest wholesale market in Europe, during the protests, crossing one of the government’s “red lines.”

At least 79 people were arrested by the police, who had explicit orders from Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin to secure Rungis.

Tensions between the two sides had been rising since the morning when tractors were positioned in front of police tanks guarding one of the blockades on a highway leading to Paris.

A convoy that left Monday from Agen in the south of the country, the epicenter of the protests, on its way to Rungis ran into a police detachment that stopped it on a bridge over the Loire river, 80 kilometers (49 miles) from its destination.

First arrests

Farmers managed to evade surveillance and entered the wholesale market on foot, where they damaged some stalls, leading to arrests.

For the first time since the protests began, there was a significant deployment of riot police, which until now had remained on the sidelines.

At the same time, government spokespersons, who until now have been sympathetic to the peasants’ demands, began to raise their tone, claiming that the farmers do not recognize the work they are doing.

They reiterated that President Emmanuel Macron has given in to some of the agricultural demands: he renounced the abolition of subsidies for diesel, simplified some procedures, and obtained concessions from Brussels on fallow land and imports of Ukrainian grain.

For the Elysée, it is a step forward that Macron himself will try to consolidate on Thursday at the summit of EU leaders that begins in Brussels.

However, it was not enough for the farmers, who showed their willingness to continue the protest and to increase the pressure in the hundred blockades they maintained throughout the country.

Although the leaders of the majority of the unions reiterated the message to remain calm and avoid violent actions. EFE

lmpg/mcd/ics

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