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French Gypsy protest blocks major highway

BORDEAUX, 16.8.2010 12:00, (AFP)

Members of France's Roma, Gypsy and traveller minorities blocked a major highway outside Bordeaux on Sunday after hundreds of them were kicked out of an illegal campsite.

President Nicolas Sarkozy's government has in recent weeks launched a major and controversial crackdown on the travelling minorities, closing unauthorised camps and expelling foreign-born Gypsies from the country.

Sunday's blockade was the first major counter-protest by the groups, and more than 250 cars, trucks and caravans blocked the Bordeaux bypass and a bridge over the River Garonne in the southwest of the country.

Police and road safety officials said northbound traffic towards Paris was backed up for five kilometres (three miles) and southbound into Bordeaux for two kilometres, causing major disruption on a summer public holiday weekend.

The protestors blocked traffic on the bridge for about five hours before leaving to try to move their caravans onto a sports ground, but were stopped by riot police and several scuffles broke out.

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