France // Farmers block the famous Tour de France in protest~ 2 min

Tour de France cyclist riding a bike with tires made of circular hales of bay.

By Simone Vieira

The Tour de France has been marked by protests since the 1970s and this year was no exception. On July 24, farmers in the Piege region surprised the organization of this private-interest event by throwing straw bales onto the road during the 16th stage of the race.

Accused of provoking chaos and ruining such a grand and noble event, these farmers displayed signs in defense of the Piege region. “So that it may continue to exist” was the message that appeared in some of them. The idea behind ​​the protest was to pressure the government into taking action on the problems affecting the most underprivileged rural areas. Contacted six months ago, the Minister of Agriculture has chosen to remain silent ever since and ignore the difficulties pointed out by farmers.

The fear that the mega event would be hampered by the civil disobedience of insurgents led the Tour de France to spend money on advertising warnings to farmers on the risks they were taking if they insisted on interrupting the agenda of the high-profile Tour to France. There were images warning that any voluntary behavior which might endanger the “safety” of cyclists would incur a fine and imprisonment for up to three years; in what appears to be a clear threat or a weak attempt to dissuade those who still want to contest and challenge the existing economic and institutional powers.

The Tour de France image threatning 3 years in prison.
The Tour de France image threatening 3 years in prison.

Farmers managed to delay the start of the race but came under strong attack by the police intervention forces, which responded to their peaceful protest with arrests and application of pepper spray directly in the farmers’ eyes. An disproportional police attack that ended up hitting the cyclists themselves.

The authorities did everything to expel the farmers and the media helped in stifling the protest. The race organization posted video footage of the race being delayed, but without explaining why it happened and without giving any visibility to the peaceful message the farmers tried to pass through the blockade with straw bales.

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