French Farmers Plan to 'Siege' Paris with Tractor Protest; Activists Throw Soup at the 'Mona Lisa'



France’s interior ministry on Sunday ordered a large deployment of security forces around Paris as angry farmers threatened to head toward the capital, hours after climate activists hurled soup at the glass protecting the “Mona Lisa” painting at the Louvre Museum.

French farmers are putting pressure on the government to respond to their demands for better remuneration for their produce, less red tape and protection against cheap imports.

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin held a security meeting Sunday before potential road blockades around Paris, his office said in a statement.

Darmanin ordered security forces to “prevent any blockade” of Rungis International Market and Paris airports as well as to ban any convoy of farmers from entering the capital, the statement said.

Farmers affiliated with the Rural Coordination Union in the Lot-et-Garonne region, where the protests originated, are planning a tractor-led march towards the Rungis International Market on Monday. Rungis is a significant supplier of fresh produce to the capital and its surrounding areas.

In a joint statement, France's two largest farmers unions declared that their members residing in regions surrounding Paris would actively block major roads leading to the capital. Their collective objective is to impose a kind of "siege" on the city, with disruptions expected to commence from Monday afternoon.

Earlier on Sunday, two climate activists drew attention when they tossed soup at the protective glass surrounding the "Mona Lisa" at the Louvre Museum. Accompanied by slogans advocating for a sustainable food system, the activists, clad in T-shirts reading "FOOD RIPOSTE," breached a security barrier to approach the iconic painting.

In a social media video capturing the incident, the activists questioned, "What's the most important thing? Art, or the right to a healthy and sustainable food?"

Subsequently, Louvre staff swiftly responded to the incident by placing black panels in front of the Mona Lisa and urging visitors to evacuate the room. Paris police confirmed the arrest of two individuals in connection with the disruption.

The "Food Riposte" group, as stated on its website, accuses the French government of failing to uphold its climate commitments. It advocates for the establishment of a healthcare-equivalent system to ensure improved access to healthy food for the public while ensuring farmers receive a fair income.

Frustrated French farmers have utilized their tractors to create road blockades and disrupt traffic across the country for several days. Additionally, they staged protests by depositing foul-smelling agricultural waste at the entrances of government offices. Despite the government's announcement of measures on Friday, farmers argue that their demands remain unmet. The proposed measures include the "drastic simplification" of certain technical procedures and a gradual reduction in diesel fuel taxes for agricultural vehicles.

In response to the farmers' concerns, France's new Prime Minister, Gabriel Attal, visited a farm in the central region of Indre-et-Loire on Sunday. He acknowledged the complexity of the situation, recognizing the contradictory demands for both quality and lower prices. Attal emphasized the need for short, medium, and long-term solutions, expressing the government's commitment to supporting farmers.

Attal further disclosed that the government is contemplating "additional" measures to counter what he deems "unfair competition" from other countries with different production rules importing food to France. He assured that further decisions addressing farmers' concerns would be made in the coming weeks.

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