Violent French fishermen battle police in Paris
Around 200 Fishermen gathered outside the agriculture ministry where they hurl flares and set fire to a European flag.21 May 2008
PARIS - Hundreds of French fishermen clashed with police in Paris on Wednesday as they stepped up a 10-day old protest against soaring fuel costs, officials said.
The fishermen, who have blockaded French ports and oil depots and caused fuel shortages in several towns, hurled flares at police guarding the agriculture ministry. Officials said four police were injured.
Trawler operators and crew are demanding the government increase a three-year EUR 310 million rescue plan for the industry.
Around 200 fishermen gathered outside the agriculture ministry, where Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Michel Barnier was holding talks with industry representatives.
The protestors set fire to a European flag and hurled around 100 flares and smoke grenades at police, despite appeals for calm by the negotiating team.
Police said three officers were seriously injured and one suffered light injuries. One was hit in the leg by a flare, witnesses said.
The protest movement spread this week from the Atlantic and Channel to the Mediterranean, where fishermen blockaded ports and oil depots causing a rush on fuel stations near La Rochelle on the Atlantic.
Shortages were also reported in several service stations near Montpellier on the Mediterranean coast on Tuesday.
Dozens of fishermen blocked road access to oil depots in Fos-sur-Mer and Berre, near France's number one port, Marseille, causing a tailback of fuel trucks waiting to take delivery.
Eighty fishing boats blocked France's largest fishing port, Boulogne-sur-Mer, with similar action in the Channel ports of Calais and Dunkirk, in protest both at fuel costs and a cut in cod fishing quotas, a local union leader said.
President Nicolas Sarkozy promised on Tuesday to help the fishermen cope with the cost of diesel, which has almost doubled to 70 euro cents per litre since November.
The fishermen, who have also ransacked fish stands at half a dozen supermarkets, have warned they will step up their protests unless their demands are met.
[AFP / Expatica]