PARIS, March 2 — French police arrested dozens of people yesterday at a farmers’ protest on the Champs-Elysees in central Paris that blocked traffic during the morning rush hour.

Using tractors and bales of hay, farmers briefly brought traffic to a halt on the famed avenue near the Arc de Triomphe monument, only a short distance from President Emmanuel Macron’s office, the Elysee.

The protesters, who held up banners on the avenue, said their action was aimed “at saving French agriculture”.

Farmers across Europe have been protesting for weeks over what they say are excessively restrictive environmental rules, competition from cheap imports from outside the European Union and low incomes.


Farmer Axel Masson said about 100 of his peers had gathered at the arterial roundabout starting at around 3:00 am (0200 GMT) “in a peaceful and law-abiding manner”.

Some of the protesters handed out bags of potatoes to motorists stuck in crawling traffic around the Arc de Triomphe, AFP reporters at the scene said.

Several were seen chatting with police officers before the arrests, which came as Paris is hosting the country’s annual agricultural fair, a unmissable event for politicians of all stripes.


Prosecutors said late yesterday that 72 people had been arrested, and that all had subsequently been released.

“The Rural Coordination takes over the Arc de Triomphe symbolically and peacefully,” the farmers’ union said in a statement on X, adding that it was a cry to “save” agriculture in France.

It said it “wants quick action to save 45 per cent of our farms which are in financial distress”.

Masson said the farmers laid a wreath in memory of their colleagues who had been driven to suicide by financial woes, adding: “The state has never heard us.”

French farmers have continued to block roads, set fire to tyres and lay siege to supermarkets, saying they need more measures, even after the government promised reforms.

Macron spent his entire day at the agriculture fair on Saturday, with riot police keeping back hundreds of protesters who heckled him upon his arrival.

Macron says his government is working on measures to alleviate farmers’ financial burdens and has promised to meet with their representatives again in the coming weeks. — AFP