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.
"I am a victim of politically-motivated justice," Bove,
dressed as a convict and wearing handcuffs, told some 800
sympathizers gathered outside the prison.
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
"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
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