Anti-bullfight march sparks clashes in key French town

Gendarmerie stopped protesters getting too close to the town centre, prompting clashes

Gendarmes have clashed with anti-bullfighting activists at a bull festival in the notorious town of Rodilhan in the Gard (Occitanie), after hundreds of protesters marched against the practice.

Around 200 protesters gathered this Sunday (October 21) in Rodilhan, a small commune in the department that has become a symbol for the conflict between bullfighting advocates and those who want to see it banned.

The protest took place during a bull festival, in an event organised by anti-bullfighting committee the Comité Radicalement Anticorrida (CRAC).

Using whistles, sirens, drums and flags, protesters said they were demanding “an end to torture rituals”. Montpellier native and animal welfare activist Rémi Gaillard was also present.

Yet, the demonstration was barred from entering the town centre by iron barriers and gendarmerie lines. Law enforcement services later used tear gas to disperse protesters, reports have said.

At least one protester was reported as injured.

Rodilhan has become an unlikely symbol of anti-bullfighting, as former president of CRAC, the late Jean-Pierre Garrigues, used to teach there. Unafraid to use militancy, he aimed to transform the town into an anti-bullfighting base.

The biggest clash in the town’s anti-bullfighting history happened on October 8 2011, when activists let off smoke bombs in the centre-ville and began chanting slogans.

Gendarmerie were allegedly violent towards protesters when they were on the ground, and used force to disperse the crowds.

In 2016, 17 protesters were handed prison sentences of up to six months for their roles in the incident.

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