Published on Monday, June 17, 2002 by Agence France Presse
French Activist Jose Bove Ordered to Prison
France's star anti-globalization activist Jose Bove was ordered to prison to serve a three-month jail sentence for his 1999 demolition of a McDonald's outlet.
French authorities, fearing his incarceration could have upset presidential and parliamentary elections held over the past two months, had put off imposing the sentence handed down by a court in February.
But the last of the polls finished Sunday, ushering in a center-right government that has pledged to be tough on law-and-order issues and to implement President Jacques Chirac's "zero impunity" pledge on crime.
Bove, a mustachioed former farmer who has built a worldwide reputation for his active opposition to multinational companies, US trade policies and globalization's negative effects on workers and the poor, vowed to make his time behind bars as politically embarrassing for the new government as possible.
"I won't go alone. We've decided to go in a procession," he said.
"The first political decision of (Prime Minister Jean-Pierre) Raffarin's government and of the majority coming from Sunday's vote is to repress the labor movement.
"My incarceration is a clear message to the labor movement that challenges to globalization's will no longer be accepted."
Bove and a group of other farmers angry with punitive US trade tariffs on French goat cheese exports used tractors to tear apart a McDonald's fast-food restaurant under construction in the southern town on Millau in 1999.
He tried to have the criminal charges set aside, arguing that the action had been a political demonstration, but in February a court quashed that appeal and ruled that he would have to serve three months, minus the 20 days he had already spent in custody.
With good behavior, the total term could end up being as low as one month.
But authorities dragged their heels, loath to give the militant a stage during the sensitive election period.
"There is no way that the judicial institution is going to foul the electoral scene," Montpellier prosecutor Paul-Louis Aumeras said in April, explaining that Bove would not be jailed until after the final presidential polls on May 5.
Bove capitalized on the surprising decision.
He refused to cut any face-saving deal, telling AFP in April: "There is no room for negotiation -- either I'm free or I'm in prison."
And in the last few weeks he has been taunting police with regular queries about when, exactly, he could expect to be put behind bars.
Now he has his answer. And France's new government has its first challenge to its authority.
Copyright 2002 AFP