The French Interior Ministry has ordered a large deployment of security forces around Paris as angry farmers threatened to head towards the capital
SYLVIE CORBET Associated Press
January 28, 2024, 5:58 a.m. ET
• 4 min reading
PARIS (AP) — France's Interior Ministry ordered a large deployment of security forces around Paris on Sunday as angry farmers threatened to head toward the capital, hours after climate activists hurled soup at the glass containing the “Mona Lisa” painting at the Louvre protected.
French farmers are putting pressure on the government to meet their demands for better compensation for their produce, less bureaucracy and protection from cheap imports.
After an emergency meeting on Sunday evening, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said 15,000 police were deployed, mostly in the Paris region.
Darmanin said all eight highways leading to Paris may be closed from midday on Monday and urged car and truck drivers to “expect” blockages. “Difficulty will obviously be very important,” he said.
Farmers from the Rural Coordination union in the Lot-et-Garonne region, where the protests originated, said they planned to drive their tractors to the Rungis International Market on Monday.
France's two largest farmers' unions said in a statement that their members in the Paris area would try to block all major roads into the capital from Monday afternoon, with the aim of putting the city “under siege.”
Earlier Sunday, two climate activists threw soup at the glass protecting the “Mona Lisa” at the Louvre and shouted slogans advocating for a sustainable food system.
In a video posted on social media, two women with the words “FOOD RIPOSTE” written on their T-shirts were seen walking under a security barrier to get closer to the painting and throwing soup onto the glass, which was Leonardo da Vinci's Masterpiece protected.
“What’s the most important thing?” They shouted. “Art or the right to healthy and sustainable food?”
“Our agricultural system is sick. Our farmers are dying at work,” they added.
Louvre employees could then be seen putting up black boards in front of the Mona Lisa, asking visitors to vacate the room.
According to the Paris police, two people were arrested after the incident.
On Friday, the government announced a series of measures that farmers said did not fully address their demands. These include the “drastic simplification” of certain technical procedures and the gradual abolition of diesel tax for agricultural vehicles.
France's new Prime Minister Gabriel Attal visited a farm in the central Indre-et-Loire region on Sunday. He acknowledged that farmers are in a difficult position because “on the one hand we say 'we need quality' and on the other hand 'we want ever lower prices'.”
“It’s about finding short, medium and long-term solutions,” he said, “because we need our farmers.”
Attal also said his government was considering “additional” measures against what he called “unfair competition” from other countries that have different production rules and import food into France.
He promised to make “further decisions” in the coming weeks to address farmers’ concerns.