French Farmer Jose Bove Rides Tractor to Jail
Published on Wednesday, June 19, 2002 by Reuters
French Farmer Jose Bove Rides Tractor to Jail

MONTPELLIER, France - Jose Bove, the radical French farmer convicted for ransacking a McDonald's fast-food restaurant, drove to prison Wednesday at the head of a convoy of tractors applauded by passersby.

A long line of tractors, police and media vehicles rolled through the southern French countryside at a stately pace, ensuring Bove arrived some eight hours late for his 8:30 a.m. appointment at a prison near this Mediterranean city.

Jose Bove Drives to Jail
Jose Bove, the radical French farmer and anti-golbalization leader, heads a convoy of tractors on his way to prison near Montpellier, June 19, 2002, after he was convicted of the ransacking of a McDonalds fast food restaurant. The convoy moved through the French countryside at a slow pace in order to ensure that Bove missed his 0830 a.m appointment at the prison. Bove received a three month sentence and has exhausted the appeals process. Sign on Bove's tractor reads: Animal feed - Poison, Union rights - Prison. REUTERS/Georges Bartoli
"I am a victim of politically-motivated justice," Bove, dressed as a convict and wearing handcuffs, told some 800 sympathizers gathered outside the prison.

"But continue the fight while I am behind bars," the media-savvy anti-globalization activist added before passing through the gates to serve his sentence.

The walrus-mustachioed folk hero, who attends civil rights protests worldwide, exhausted the appeals process last year after being sentenced to three months jail in 1999 for attacking a half-built McDonald's in protest at U.S. trade policy.

But officials put off summoning him to prison until after the presidential and legislative election marathon that ended on Sunday with a landslide victory for the center-right.

Just before leaving his home at dawn near Millau, where the McDonald's restaurant is located, Bove called his jail sentence "a monumental stupidity" and said it was not necessary.

Several tractors were decorated with banners supporting Bove's struggle to defend traditional French farm products against fast food.

"Bove to Prison -- and Chirac?" one sign asked, referring to sleaze charges against conservative President Jacques Chirac, who was re-elected on May 5.

"When you see all this solidarity, all the people who've come from all around France, it's extraordinary," Bove said of the supporters accompanying him on the journey. "It is a struggle by citizens who refuse to be marginalized."

Bove has already spent 19 days in jail while under investigation and may serve only 40 more days if he behaves himself in prison, a spokesman for his Confederation Paysanne farmers' union said.

Copyright 2002 Reuters Ltd