Black Friday protest: French activists block Amazon warehouse

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Dozens of French activists have blocked an entrance to an Amazon warehouse south of Paris to protest against the environmental impact of consumerism.

Protesters formed a human chain, lay on hay bales and dumped old fridges and microwaves outside the Amazon depot in Bretigny-sur-Orge on Thursday.

They also blocked lorries from passing through.

Police dispersed the activists, whose aim was to disrupt Black Friday sales.

In response, Amazon said it respects the right to protest but accused activists of spreading “false allegations”.

The demonstrations are expected to intensify the debate about the environmental impact of Black Friday, which some French lawmakers want to ban in the country.

Earlier this week France’s Environment Minister Elisabeth Borne warned against the “consumption frenzy” linked to Black Friday.

The shopping day, during which retailers claim to offer large discounts, began in the US on the Friday after Thanksgiving but has in recent years spread to other countries.

Why did the activists target Amazon?

Environmentalists have accused Amazon of accelerating climate change through its rapid delivery services, which they say contribute to greenhouse gases emissions.

Amazon ships around 10 billion packages per year, according to Reuters news agency.

To mitigate its impact on the climate, the US e-commerce company pledged to go net carbon neutral by 2040 by investing in electric delivery vans, among other initiatives.

At Thursday’s protest, about 40km (24 miles) south of Paris, some activists held banners which read: “Amazon: for the climate, for employment, stop expanding, stop over-production”.

Where else are protests expected?

The blockade was part of the “Block Friday” demonstrations that are aiming to disrupt Amazon’s business operations nationwide.

More demonstrations are expected on Friday, with environmental groups threatening to turn November 29 into a “Black Day for Amazon”.

As of Friday morning, dozens of activists from various groups had gathered outside Amazon France’s facilities, including its headquarters in Clichy, north-west of Paris.

One of the groups, anti-globalisation movement Attac, said it will “take action across France to disrupt Amazon’s business”.

In a statement on Twitter, Amazon France said (in French) that it respects “everyone’s right to express their opinions” but disagrees with the means used by Attac.

“Amazon’s priority is to serve its customers and deliver on its delivery promises,” it said. “Our network is robust, reliable, and flexible, and we continue to deliver to our customers without interruption while ensuring the safety of our employees.”

Recent polling data carried by the Huffington Post does suggest the popularity of Black Friday may be waning in France.

A third of people surveyed by YouGov France said they were not planning to take part in this year’s Black Friday sales. A majority of respondents – 57% – said they believe Black Friday promotions are false.

Are French MPs banning Black Friday?

Some MPs want to, citing concerns over the effects of consumerism on the planet.

An “anti-waste” bill was amended to include a proposal to prohibit Black Friday by a French legislative committee on Monday.

France’s former environment minister Delphine Batho tabled the amendment, which will be debated next month in the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament.

“Black Friday celebrates a model of consumption that is anti-ecological and anti-social,” said MP Mattieu Orphelin, a former member of President Emmanuel Macron’s LREM party.

A trade union in France has opposed the proposal. So too have conservative MPs, including Republican lawmaker Eric Woerth, who called the debate over the amendment a “useless row”.

Meanwhile, Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo is considering implementing new regulations to protect the climate, including a tax on deliveries to ease traffic jams and pollution caused by Amazon and other companies.