Bove, the leader of the Cofederation Paysanne, a french small farmers union, is imprisoned for political reasons, though the official reason is that Bove destroyed Genitically Modified crops government scientists were growing in a govt. lab.
Bove is a political prisoner because his sentence is extraordinary in a country where farmers and truckers and winemakers regularly break the law to express their outrage at government policies. Bove is dangerous because he is a skilled political activist who knows how to use the media, and how to form coalitions with groups outside of France who are opposed to capitalistic methods of farming. Bove wrote a book titled 'The World is not a Commodity'. Bove is also vocally pro-Palestinian, in a country where you can be arrested for disrespecting the Israeli flag.
So we gathered in the hot garrigue near the prison, within sight of the mediterranean in one direction and the city of Montpellier in the other. There were people from the League Communiste Revolutionaire, whose presidential candidate, a 27 year old postman, won over 4 percent of the votes in the last election. Also people from the anti corporate globalization group Attac. Also the Green Party was represented, as was the anarchist CNT, and the radical labor union Sud.
On the way to the prison we banged stones on the guard rail alongside the road, and this continued throughout the demo, because the prison sits below an overpass of a major four lane highway, and there are lots of stones and guard rails around for musical purposes.
Near the prison the CRS, the riot cops, were waiting, but they could do nothing as people streamed down the embankment to the prison walls, which towered 50 high. The cops tried to intervene when some of the protestors began spraypainting the walls with anti-Chirac and pro-Jose slogans, but the crowd surrounded the cops and some big guys pushed the cops away from the spray painters. There were not enough cops to intimidate the crowd, no horse cops, and no tear gas (though they had some tear gas guns ready).
I would say there were between 2000 and 5000 people. We did not surround the entire prison, but did a pretty good job of surrounding almost three sides of it.
Many prisoners at the windows could be seen from the overpass overlooking the prison. They waved white towels in support.
Bove was visited by some local politicians. He is supposed to get out in December. This is only the latest in a planned series of protests to try and get Jose out as soon as possible.