Citizen Reporter and AFP
2 minute read
7 Nov 2013
12:15 pm

Protesters burn French ‘toll’ gantry

Citizen Reporter and AFP

As the prospect of e-tolls looms heavily on the minds of Gauteng commuters, a video has surfaced of French protesters tearing down one of the country's unpopular gantries.

In this video, uploaded to LiveLeak, protesters watch as an unpopular ecotax gantry is burnt down.

Uploaded on LiveLeak, the video shows dozens of people gathered on an opposite bridge as they watch a gantry burn. To the cheers of the crowd, the gantry topples over.

Protests over the new “ecotax” on trucks kicked off in earnest last month in the northwestern region of Brittany. The French government scrambled to contain anger over the proposed tax as protesters continued to destroy radars set up to help collect the levy, in a revolt that shows no sign of abating.

Wearing red bonnets, the symbol of a 17th-century anti-tax campaign in Brittany, small business owners, fishermen and food industry workers marched in big, sometimes violent, rallies in the region. Some destroyed radars set up in advance along roads to screen passing vehicles and determine whether they need to pay the tax, which would apply to French and foreign vehicles carrying goods weighing over 3.5 tonnes.

Under pressure to rein in its state deficit, France’s Socialist government has announced about 3 billion euros ($4.1 billion) in tax increases for next year, and protests in Brittany come on top of wider opposition to tax hikes.

The ecotax was adopted by the previous right-wing UMP government in 2009 but its implementation had repeatedly been put off. While the Socialist government suspended the levy last week over the unrest, protesters asking for the tax to be completely abandoned have continued to destroy radars, mostly in Brittany but in other parts of the country too.

On Tuesday, the transport ministry said 11 such radars had been vandalised since the beginning of the protest movement, as had four big overhead road structures equipped with cameras and radio receptors.

This equipment would identify trucks liable for the tax thanks to a GPS box installed inside the vehicles.

Controversy has also started to swirl around Ecomouv’, the firm contracted by the previous government to collect the tax, amid “questions” over how the company was awarded the contract.