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10 March 2005

Violent demonstrations in Montpellier

Violent demonstrations in Montpellier
"Protesters clashed violently with police in Montpellier as up to 8,000 wine growers demonstrated against the latest government measures..." Decanter.com news alert 10/3/2005: click on the title above to go to their webpage. Original tamer story by your faithful correspondent is copied below (well, I was there in the thick of it after all...)

A reported 4500 wine growers from the Languedoc-Roussillon and the southern Rhône turned out yesterday in Montpellier to protest against the latest government measures and show solidarity in the face of escalating economic hardship. The €70 million rescue plan tabled by the Minister of Agriculture Dominique Bussereau has been widely criticised for not going far enough to support struggling French vignerons. Philippe Vergnes, representing the event organisers and president of one of the growers unions in the Aude, called on the government to “pay up so we can get over the worst. This region has given a lot in the past, it’s time to give something back to small producers.” He added: “if we’re guilty of anything, then it’s because there are too many of us. If market forces are to take over, help those get out of the business, if they want to, and those who wish to stay, roll up their sleeves and get out of this mess.”
The supermarket chains were also slammed as “the biggest racket going,” along with the government’s anti-alcohol measures: “This attack on consumption has lead to the worst crisis in history.” Growers present were also demanding the right to publicise the positive aspects of moderate wine consumption. A delegation from the Languedoc-Roussillon is due to meet the Minister of Agriculture on 22nd March. The demonstration started peacefully in Place Peyrou by the Arc de Triomphe, where speeches were held before the march down the hill to the station and back up through La Comédie. However, by the time the throng reached the town hall armed with nothing more than placards (sporting slogans such as “Chirac what a let-down” and “Get to work Bussereau”), firecrackers and a petition, skirmishes broke out apparently provoked by the heavy-handed police presence attempting to disperse the crowd.

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Header image: Château de Flandry, Limoux, Languedoc. Background: Vineyard near Terrats in Les Aspres, Roussillon.