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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 July, 2003, 17:42 GMT 18:42 UK
Protest disrupts Tour de France
Police drag away protesters demonstrating against Jose Bove's sentence at Tour de France
The protest was the latest in a series against Bove's imprisonment
A protest by supporters of jailed French anti-globalisation activist Jose Bove has disrupted the world's premier cycling race.

Demonstrators sat down in the middle of the road during the 10th stage of the Tour de France, about 70km (43 miles) away from the city of Marseille.

The peloton, or main pack of riders, was forced to halt for two minutes before police dragged the protesters away.

Mr Bove, a prominent critic of trade liberalisation and mass-produced food, is currently serving two separate prison terms for destroying genetically-modified crops of maize and rice in the late 1990s.

He also leads a militant group of farmers called the Confederation Paysanne, which champions smaller producers, and is considered by many in France to be a hero for his stand against big business.

Tour officials ruled that the protest was "a normal race incident," meaning that riders would have to suffer the penalties of being caught in the protest.

Popular figure

But the protest did not have any affect on the result of the Tuesday's stage.

Although the group affected included four-time winner and current race leader, Lance Armstrong, all his closest rivals were held up in the group with him so his lead did not suffer.

Mr Bove is nicknamed Asterix by the French, both for his moustachioed resemblance to the cartoon character and his determination to repel what he sees as foreign invaders - whether they be a McDonald's restaurant or GM crops.

Jose Bove
Bove is a popular figurehead for anti-globalisation in France
Protesters had hoped that Bove would be granted clemency during the country's Bastille Day celebrations.

However French President Jacques Chirac said that activists did not have the right to break the law, although he did shorten Bove's sentence.

On Monday protesters held several demonstrations in Paris on behalf of Bove, which included draping banners across the Louvre and a protest picnic in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower.

However correspondents say the Tour de France protest may lose him public support because of the cost of precious time and points to riders in France's premier sporting event.




SEE ALSO:
Piil sprints to victory
15 Jul 03  |  Tour de France 2003


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