Boxed in - French activists protest against Amazon's expansion

French activists, Action non-violente COP21, Attac and Les Amis de la Terre, stage an action to protest against e-commerce Amazon's growth in France and its plans to build new logistical centers, in front of Bercy Finance Ministry in Paris, France, December 4, 2020. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

PARIS (Reuters) - Climate activists piled up giant cardboard delivery boxes outside the finance ministry in Paris on Friday, protesting against Amazon's expansion in France as the online retailer launched a delayed "Black Friday" sales drive.

Gathered in the ministry's cobbled courtyard, the protesters from three groups - ANV-COP 21, Attac and Amis de la Terre - rolled out a banner on the building's facade bearing the slogan "change of owner" and featuring the faces of Amazon boss Jeff Bezos and French President Emmanuel Macron.

"Amazon is destroying jobs and climate in France. It plans to massively expand in France with dozens of warehouses already built and more to come. We demand a freeze (on building more)," Sandy Olivar Calvo, a spokeswoman for ANV-COP21, told Reuters.

The campaigners view the U.S. retail giant as a prime factor in the urbanisation of farmland, a process they say is contributing significantly to climate change and the loss of environmental biodiversity.

Amazon's global revenues have soared during the pandemic and its ability to keep selling during coronavirus lockdowns has deepened frustration among French opponents, who say it represents a U.S.-style mass consumer culture at odds with a long local tradition of neighborhood stores.

A lengthy battle over safety measures this spring led to the temporary closure of Amazon's French warehouses.

Last month, under government pressure, it postponed its Black Friday campaign from Nov. 27 to Dec. 4 to help shopkeepers struggling during France's second national lockdown. They were allowed to re-open on Nov. 28 but restaurants and bars remain closed.

Asked about a possible freeze on new warehouses, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said new house construction was the biggest contributor to the urbanisation of farmland.

The online retailer and similar firms were responsible for "just a few percent" of the urbanisation process and were creating many jobs, he told BFM TV.

Reacting to Friday's protest, Amazon said it had unwittingly become the mouthpiece of organisations that often made use of "misleading" information. It had invested 9.2 billion euros ($11.2 billion) in France and was "at the origin of" the creation of 130,000 jobs, a spokeswoman said.

($1 = 0.8216 euros)

(Reporting by Noemie Olive and Dominique Vidalon; editing by John Stonestreet)

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