France's Roma in road blockade to protest gipsy raids
More than 250 cars and caravans belonging to members of France’s Roma, or gispy, population on Sunday blocked a major highway outside the south-western city of Bordeaux in protest against the government’s raids on illegal Roma camps.
France has in recent weeks launched a major crackdown on the Roma, closing unauthorised camps and expelling individuals.
Sunday's blockade is the first major counter-protest by the groups, in which vehicles were used to block the Bordeaux bypass and a bridge, causing major disruption on a summer public holiday weekend.
Police said that earlier Sunday the Roma has been expelled from a camp in the town of Anglet, further south, and were prevented from moving on to an exhibition ground nearer Bordeaux.
A lawmaker from France's ruling UMP party denounced Saturday the government's raids on Roma camps as disgraceful, likening them to World War II round-ups.
Following the latest raid on Saturday in an eastern Paris suburb, Jean-Pierre Grand said the government's policy of dismantling illegal Roma camps "is turning disgraceful".
Police removed Saturday 70 Roma, including around 20 children, who had been occupying a building in Montreuil for two days.
Sixteen were arrested and then ordered to leave French territory.