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Macron Spends Day At Agricultural Show As Angry Farmers Protest

Police arrested six people and eight officers were hurt in the violence, the head of the Paris force, Laurent Nunez, said Saturday.

French President Emmanuel Macron spent the entire day at the annual agricultural fair Saturday, as angry farmers heckled him and scuffled with police.

Riot police kept the protesters at a safe distance as Macron toured the fair, inspecting prize cattle, tasting honey from Normandy and cheeses from the Alps, and shaking hands with exhibitors.

But as he entered the fair’s livestock area in the morning, hundreds of protestors crashed the gates and clashed with police.

In the ensuing confusion, the fair was repeatedly closed and then re-opened to the public.

Throughout the day, police and protestors pushed each other back and forth in chaotic scenes.

Police arrested six people and eight officers were hurt in the violence, the head of the Paris force, Laurent Nunez, said Saturday.

In a separate incident, farmers poured manure on the stand of dairy giant Lactalis, which they accuse of not paying enough for its milk.

“Who would have said this morning that 12 hours later we’d still be working and advancing,” Macron said at around 8:00 pm.

“It’s ridiculous that a small number of farmers spread violence at their own fair,” he added. He finally left around 9:00 pm — 13 hours after he arrived.

– Macron meets farmers’ leaders –

While French presidents have often been jeered at the annual fair, Saturday’s scenes were a first.

Farmers’ leaders had warned Macron that his visit to the “Salon de l’Agriculture” — a fixture of the presidential calendar — would not go smoothly if the government had not delivered on their promises to meet their demands.

He had begun the day at the fair with an early morning two-hour meeting with the leaders of the three main farmers unions, the FNSEA, Jeunes Agriculteurs and Coordination Rurale.

Standing at plastic table, his jacket off and shirt sleeves rolled up, the president listened to complaints about prices, red tape and state aid.

It was a step down from the major national debate he had originally planned before scrapping it after a row over who could be invited.

“I always prefer dialogue to confrontation,” Macron said. “I am telling you that work is being done on the ground, we are in the process of simplifying things.”

Macron stressed that his government had made 62 commitments to meet farmers demands, including promises of minimum prices for some agricultural commodities.

The protesting farmers were not impressed.

“Did you hear him? He doesn’t let us speak, he talks down to us. We want him to go,” farmer Eric Labarre, an FNSEA member, told AFP.

FNSEA leader Arnaud Rousseau was more conciliatory. “There are a certain number of advances that we are happy about,” he told LCI television.

Macron said he would meet again with farmers in three weeks, after the fair shuts on March 3.


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