Hundreds of people demonstrated yesterday in the Occitan municipality of Vilanòva de Magalona (Villeneuve-lès-Maguelone, in French) to call for respect for Occitan and the mayor of the commune Noël Segura. Segura refused to comply with a court decision compelling him to withdraw signposts with the Occitan name of the village. According to AFP, the mayor said he is "ready to take all the consequences" to win the court battle for Occitan road signs, and if necessary, he will "appeal in the high court. "Regional languages are far from being dead", he added.
The court battle was initiated by Robert Hadjadj, a member of the Mouvement Républicain de Salut Public (Republican Movement of Public Health). The organization, which is against language diversity in the French Republic, lodged a lawsuit against the road signs because the organization believes drivers can misinterpret them. A court backed the MRSP in October, but the mayor said he would not withdraw the signposts.
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Segura is not alone in his struggle. Members of the Institute of Occitan Studies (the Occitan language academy), the Calandretas (Occitan-medium schools), Europe Ecology MEPs François Alfonsi and Catherine Grèze, as well as other Occitan councilors and mayors gave him their support last Sunday in Segura's town. To Europe Ecology, Occitan is not only viewed as heritage but as "a close bond between European Romance languages-speaking countries". Only a few weeks ago Grèze questioned the European Commission about France's attitude on language diversity and called for France to "implement European principles on minority languages".
In France, Occitan senator Roland Courteau is trying to take the reins of the issue. He filed a bill in the Senate in November 26 allowing bilingual signposts at the entrance and exits of urban areas.
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