Click here for France3 video feed Amidst lurid scenes of extraordinary violence in the south of France demonstrators have vowed to increase the pressure until the government caves in to their demands.
After over €2m of damage had been caused across the Hérault region, a member of CRAV, the militant splinter group of disaffected winemakers, told French TV channel France 3, ‘they’re going to have to listen or we’re going to hit even harder. We will not stop.’
In one night of near-anarchy the French railway system was targeted along a 140km stretch between Nîmes and Narbonne with 3 railway wagons being set alight in Nîmes. A points system was destroyed and bolts were removed from tracks – also in Nîmes.
Protesters set fire to rail crossings and junction boxes at Lunel, Narbonne, Agde and Marcorignan, and vandalised security installations at Castellas, disabling telephone communication with the rest of the network.
Signals between Sète and Agde were also rendered inoperable causing trains to run at a maximum speed of 30km/h between Sète and Béziers.
The French state-owned railway company, the SNCF, has put the cost of damages at €2m. Drafting in around 150 workers to deal with the damage, it said it hopes normal service should be resumed today.
Two supermarkets were vandalised as militants forced their way in using shopping trolleys, sweeping foreign bottles of wine off the shelves.
On Wednesday afternoon, a platoon of CRAV activists used sledgehammers to smash the valves off 13 tanks at a distillery near Montpellier, leaving over 10,000 hectolitres of Chilean wine gushing down the streets.
Police arrested two winemakers for possession of firearms, vandalism and wounding a government official. They were released last night.
Meanwhile, union chiefs added to the tension with barely-veiled threats. ‘This is the third and last demonstration. We’ve had enough of these healthy walks. Next time, we’ll go about things differently,’ Philippe Vergnes, the head of the winemakers’ union in the Aude region, told AFP.
His counterpart in the Hérault, Jean Huillet, used coded language at Wednesday’s (largely peaceful) demonstration in Nîmes.
‘I advise you to take the b-roads and to strike bachannalian poses to ensure this evening is a memorable one,’ he said.
Wednesday’s demonstration was a protest at the French government’s inaction towards the economic crisis in winemaking in the south.
Written by Oliver Styles