We were driving home last weekend from Brittany, and we were warned that some farmers were organizing snail operation (opération escargot) on selected highway. They were protesting against the new green tax which will take place starting 1st January 2014. Basically a bunch of farmers came with their tractors with intention to slow down the traffics.
But this time the Bretons have taken it to the next level, they destroyed gantries, equipments that come with video cameras, which will screen through trucks weight more than 3,5 tons, and later send the truck owners the tax bill. Photo shows a gantry before being destroyed.
A gantry being burned. The protesters gathered some tires around the gantry's leg and burned them.
They managed to destroyed 5 gantries, several speed radars, and a gate to a local Prefecture. The Prime Minister and Home Minister have urged the protesters to calm down, claiming that going on demonstration is a right granted by the constitution, but nobody should destroy public properties. I have read several articles but non mentioned that the protesters who involved in violence were captured by the police. It seems that French government is too scared to provoke more tensions.
It shocks me that destroying public properties during demonstration is tolerated. I have asked around, people would just shrug and accept that violence could be part of a demonstration. And it's true, I remember high schoolers were demonstrating by blocking school entrances and they did burn rubbish bins in public.
Now I would like to know how much all these cost the tax payers. It seems that each gantry costs more than 500k€. The green tax is now in suspension, if the government pulls off, they would have to pay million in € to the private company they appointed to collect the tax. To put an end to these demonstrations, the government has offered to negotiate, I read that they would propose 15 million Euros to compensate the farmer industry.
So this is how I interpret the whole thing : the government is trying to raise environment taxes to finance road infrastructure. Every truck that transports goods more than 3,5 tons would have to pay taxes. With the demonstrations, the government will subsidy the farmer industry with 15 million € + paying for all the repair costs. All these even out, the government would probably get nothing from this tax. It all comes down to a simple game : we propose a tax, we use the money to shut up those who protest, and we ask those who don't make noise to pay more taxes. Agree?