France's funfair operators join anti-Macron protests

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French funfair operators joined nationwide protests against President Emmanuel Macron's labour reforms, donning clown suits and blocking major thoroughfares in several cities to call attention to their cause.

The mainly small family businesses jumped on the anti-Macron bandwagon even though their complaint centres on a threat to their livelihood that took effect before the president took office in May.

Organisers said some 10,000 trucks and caravans took part in the protest including up to 500 in Paris, with other "go-slows" snarling traffic in Toulouse, Marseille, Lyon and Strasbourg.

The protesters, some decked out as clowns, formed a noisy marching band during the Paris protest.

Blaring their horns, dozens of trucks briefly took over the Arc de Triomphe roundabout at the top of the famous Champs Elysees avenue in central Paris early Tuesday.

Wearing a T-shirt reading "Save our fairs", one protester told AFP: "We have nothing to lose. We're not asking for subsidies, we just want to work."

A new law passed in April requires cities to open fairgrounds to competition, which funfair operators fear will allow large companies to take over their traditional venues.

Marcel Campion, who owns Paris's Big Wheel ferris wheel, called the measure "the death of our profession".

The white-haired Campion, 77, has become the de facto leader of the funfair sector, which includes merry-go-rounds and other attractions and market stalls and employs around 200,000 people throughout France.

Dubbed the "funfair king" by French media -- an epithet he rejects -- Campion is embroiled in a fight with the city of Paris involving charges of shutting out competition to operate the Big Wheel and the Christmas market.

Campion is also in legal difficulty, accused of money laundering and links to organised crime.

The family of Bruno Vantyghem, who runs his carousel in Paris and in the southwestern cities of Bordeaux and Biarritz according to the season, has been in the business for five generations.

"The big companies are going to take over," Vantyghem, 44, told AFP. "It's the same problem as the taxis."

© 2017 AFP

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