Protests over French 'Ecotax' Turn Violent
TEHRAN (Tasnim) - Protests by French agricultural workers in Brittany over plans for a new road tax turned violent, with two demonstrators and a police officer injured.
Protesters say the “ecotax” will further damage their already struggling industry.
Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets during violent clashes with agricultural workers in France, protesting over plans for a controversial new tax on heavy road transport.
Between 500 and 1,000 demonstrators, including farmers, business owners and truck drivers, gathered in force in the Finistère department in west Brittany to voice their anger over the so-called “ecotax”.
Protesters set fire to hay bales and stacks of tires next to the ecotax toll gate at Pont-de-Buis, the only one still functioning in the region after the other two were put out of commission by acts of sabotage in recent months.
Others spilled truckloads of cauliflower onto the road, while more than 250 vehicles including trucks, tractors and trailers were also used to block the route.
As riot police arrived to quell the protests, demonstrators hurled eggs and flares at the security forces, who responded with volleys of teargas and shots from Flash-Ball weapons – controversial hand-held devices that fire non-lethal rubber bullets.
One protester had to be evacuated by helicopter after his hand was injured by a teargas grenade, AFP reported, while another was taken to hospital after being hit in the neck by a Flash-Ball shot.
A policeman also suffered a slight injury after being hit by a projectile, said the prefect for the Finistère department, Jean -Luc Videlaine.
The demonstrations lasted for several hours, before protesters were finally dispersed shortly before midnight.
First introduced by the former French government under Nicolas Sarkozy, the ecotax aims to encourage the use of more environmentally friendly transport.
Due to come into effect in January 2014, it will see an additional levy placed on transport over 3.5 tons.
The tax is deeply unpopular in Brittany, whose agricultural industry is a vital part of the region’s economy.
Unions and farmers say the new levy will increase the cost of transporting their products to market and shrink revenues at a time when industry is already suffering from an economic downturn.