The Bove squad - 80 police, dogs and chopper
Sydney Morning Herald. June 24 2003
The leader of France's anti-globalisation movement, Jose Bove, has been snatched from his bed at dawn and whisked off to prison by helicopter.
The Justice Minister, Dominique Perben, struggled to explain the need for 80 policemen, teams of dogs and the helicopter to apprehend a man whose main weapons are his tractor and chunks of Rocquefort cheese. "We wanted to avoid any confrontation," he said on Sunday.
Bove is a hero in France, lauded for standing up against what he calls "the totalitarianism of capitalism". The Government is bound to face protests and petitions demanding his release. Officials raised the possibility the activist might be pardoned. Mr Perben said President Jacques Chirac might grant Bove clemency in an annual decree traditionally issued on July 14, Bastille Day.
Bove took to political activism after the United States imposed tariffs on French cheeses and pate de foie gras in revenge for the European Union's ban on US hormone-treated beef. In 1999 he led an attack on a McDonald's restaurant being built near his home in Larzac, southern France, and caused $A200,000 damage. His latest conviction was for destroying genetically modified rice and maize samples, for which he must serve two consecutive sentences of six and four months. He refused offers to discuss cutting his sentence and retreated to his 500-year-old farmhouse to await arrest or a presidential pardon.
His farmers' union, the Confederation paysanne, for which he is a spokesman, said it was outrageous to arrest a farmer just before the morning milking, and the Government could expect the full wrath of Bove's many supporters. Bove's lawyer, Francois Roux, said he found it "incomprehensible that they needed such a huge force for a non-violent activist who had always said he would not try to escape".
Rather than knocking on Bove's door, the police crashed through his window. Mr Roux said: "They treated him like a crook, without even letting him gather up his personal effects - not even his toothbrush."