Monday, November 4, 2013

Another Blow for Road Haulage Tax as Farmers Protests far Exceed Freight and Shipping Complaints

Never Slow to Vent Their Feelings Rural French Spill Blood in the Streets over Ecotaxe
Shipping News Feature

FRANCE – Just last week in an article we suggested that a mounting challenge to the new road haulage ‘Ecotaxe’, full details of which we had previously covered, might come from the corridors of power in Europe or from dissatisfied freight and shipping interests. Instead it came first, as so often before, in the form of violent protests from the militant farmers and fishermen in the West of the country as thousands took to the streets in a bloody battle with police.

The whole thing started peacefully enough, French farmers, protesting that the €12 - €18 the new tax would likely cost them for every trip was unacceptable, simply tipped lorry loads of cauliflowers across Brittany’s roads, halting all traffic on Friday. At the weekend however things took on a darker tone, amidst rumours that at protestor had had a hand blown off during the demonstrations first came the rally, 10,000 said the authorities – 30,000 said the protest organisers, many wearing the traditional bonnet rouges, a sign of anti-taxation unrest since the 17th century when King Louis XIV attempted to finance his latest war, this time whilst the Gwenn-ha-du, the black and white flags of the Bretons since the 1920’s, flew above the heads of the crowd.

A giant poster calling for the resignation of President François Hollande was unfurled and the crowds gathered in the town square in Quimper despite the announcement earlier in the week that, once again the controversial tax was to be delayed until January. As night fell the level of violence grew between police and protestors with widespread use of water cannon and tear gas by the authorities whilst the crowd utilised any suitable items to hand to act as weapons.

Photo: Protestors make their view of the French President and (inset) smoke billows in the Quimper streets on Saturday night.