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French Anti-Globalization Activists Fear Backlash - 2001-09-18


Anti-globalization groups in France are expressing concerns that their movement may suffer a backlash as a result of last week's terrorist strikes on the United States. Activists are coming forward to make clear that while they oppose some U.S. policies, they do not support what happened in New York and Washington.

Jose Bove earned fame a few years ago when he drove a tractor into a McDonald's restaurant in France, to protest, among other things, U.S. tariffs against some European foods.

Mr. Bove, who heads France's Farmers' Confederation movement, has since destroyed genetically modified crops at French research stations and participated in anti-globalization protests around the world.

But Mr. Bove told VOA that he has nothing in common with those who attacked the World Trade Center. "We wanted to say very clearly that these things have nothing to do with that," he said. "The problem is we are fighting against free trade, since we think this is very dangerous for people all over the world. And mostly as farmers, for the farmers of the world, for European farmers, for American farmers and for farmers from the southern countries."

Other like-minded activists are also fearful their message may be distorted because of last week's attacks. On Monday, anti-globalization lawmakers meeting at France's National Assembly argued their fight against Western economic policies should not be confused with that of the extremists who are suspected of carrying out the attacks.

Christophe Ventura coordinates international policy for the anti-globalization group, Attac. "We are not against the United States," he said. "That's not the problem. We express our solidarity with the American people. But we are fighting against international policies and government politics. There's a difference."

The anti-globalization movement is far from unified. Although many members are peaceful, others represent anarchist groups. Protests at international meetings have grown increasingly violent. Clashes between police and protesters during July's G8 summit in Genoa, Italy, for example, resulted in one death and hundreds more wounded.

Some anti-globalization groups now fear security measures taken after the strikes may prevent them from being able to hold any protests at all at future international conferences, such as the meeting of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, originally scheduled for next week in Washington (Sept. 29-30).

But at least they don't have to worry about missing that meeting. On Monday, IMF and World Bank officials decided to cancel it because of security concerns.

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