Farmers in trouble after latest protest

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Some of Norway’s angry farmers gathered during the night and blocked the delivery of newspaper Sunnmørsposten from its printing plant at Breivika in Ålesund. They were unhappy with the newspaper’s coverage of their protest actions last week, but their blockade is being blasted as both unpopular and illegal.

Several farmers from Sunnmøre, western Norway, drove their tractors up to the printing plant and parked them outside the entrance, with the intention of blocking the plant’s delivery trucks from leaving the plant with Friday’s edition of the paper.

“What these farmers did is illegal,” the angry editor-in-chief of Sunnmørsposten, Hanna Relling Berg, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) Friday morning. Berg said her paper, however, has “clever distributors,” and they managed to get around the blockade and get Friday’s edition into the hands of most of its readers anyway.

The farmers reportedly were unhappy that the paper hadn’t covered their protest actions on Tuesday, when farmers all over Norway disrupted traffic or resorted to other means of showing their anger over what they claim is a lack of subsidy support from the Norwegian government.

Berg, however, said her paper had devoted two pages of coverage to the farmers’ demands on Tuesday. “We have also had several full-page stories where the farmers have been able to report their opinions,” she told NRK.

The local farmers in Sunnmøre also failed to win support for their newspaper blockade from their national organization, Norges Bondelag, which otherwise has initiated and sanctioned several other protest actions around Norway. They attempted to create an artificial bread shortage on Tuesday, for example, by clearing grocery store shelves of bread and blocking four regional flour mills around the country, to drive home their point that Norwegians shouldn’t take their food supplies for granted.

Nils T Bjørke, the outspoken leader of Norges Bondelag, told NRK, however, that his organization was not behind the Sunnmøre newspaper protest.

“We are not accountable for this action,” Bjørke told NRK. “We have had our other actions and are taking a break until Monday.” That’s when the farmers have warned they will once again drive their tractors into Norwegian cities and towns to snarl traffic and make their presence known.

In Oslo, they intend to especially target Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, who they blame for the government’s offer of a 4.5 percent pay raise instead of the 20 percent they’d demanded. Newspaper Aftenposten reported that the farmers threaten to drive a slow-moving convoy of tractors through downtown Oslo, from Landbrukens Hus (the agricultural lobbyists’ office in the Gamlebyen district) to the Parliament and then to Stoltenberg’s office, now located near the Akershus Fortress since the Office of the Prime Minister was bombed in last summer’s terrorist attacks.

The Sunnmøre action, however, was not sanctioned and Bjørke indicated it was not popular. “We’re making use of other forms of protest,” he told NRK. “I don’t think this (the Sunnmøre action) was the best way to go about it.”

He noted, however, that “farmers are independent people who make their own choices. The point is that we must try to follow the protest actions we’ve all agreed on. We know, though, that there are always those who will come up with their own actions, when the frustration gets too strong.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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