PARIS: French farmers angered by government policies that they say threaten their livelihoods drove convoys of tractors into Paris on Wednesday, obstructing commuter traffic and adding to the social unrest facing President Emmanuel Macron.
Up to a thousand tractors rolled into the city from the north and south, at times blocking motorways and the inner ring-road, honking horns and flying the flags of the two main farm unions staging the protest.
In the city centre, farmers threw hay across the boutique-lined Champs-Elysees Avenue and occupied the lanes headed towards the Place de la Concorde square. Riot police urged the farmers to disperse.
“ “Macron, answer us! Save farmers,” read one banner carried by a tractor rolling down the A1 autoroute.
Farmers’ unions are demanding a meeting with Macron to express grievances over policies that they say are hurting agriculture and threatening their livelihoods, such as the phasing out of the common weedkiller glyphosate.
A food law passed by Macron’s government, which aimed to give farmers a fairer share of profits, has failed to dispel their discontent over modest revenues.
Agriculture Minister Didier Guillaume defended the government’s record, saying the law would help once it had more time to have an impact. City dwellers and environmentalists should stop denigrating farmers, he told Europe 1 radio.
The protest was similar to a blockade carried out by Irish farmers in Dublin on Wednesday, although the two events were not coordinated.
Macron, 41, has faced discontent against his social and economic reform agenda across French society.
Published in Dawn, November 28th, 2019