The Garden Gnome Liberation Front was originally a French organization, active throughout 1996 and '97. It was responsible for rescuing a large number of garden gnomes from captivity and releasing them into their natural environment. In other words, they stole gnomes from people's gardens and assembled groups of them in local forest clearings.
The activities of the organization were reportedly interrupted in 1997 when a northern French court gave their leader a suspended sentence and a fine for his part in the 'liberation' of around 150 gnomes, although they were obvious suspects when Briey in eastern France became the unfortunate host to a mass suicide of gnomes in September 1998: 11 of the unfortunate creatures were found hanged by their necks and swinging underneath a bridge. A suicide note found nearby said simply, "When you read these few words we will no longer be part of your selfish world, where we serve merely as pretty decoration".
Then, in early April 2000, just after the opening of France's first garden gnome exhibition in Bagatelle park on the outskirts of Paris, the Front suddenly struck again, liberating 20 gnomes during a night-time raid and issuing a warning that more action would follow unless their demands "that garden gnomes are no longer ridiculed and that they be released into their natural habitat," were met. The exhibition organizers vowed not to bow to pressure from the Front. Sadly, I have been unable to find any reports of the outcome.
However, I have been able to ascertain that the French Garden Gnome Liberation Front has now inspired other similar organizations elsewhere, most notably in Barga, a town in the Province of Lucca in Tuscany, Italy, where the European Gnome Sanctuary was founded in 2000. Here, so the web site claims, "these intrepid gnomes have found a green wooded valley, far away from all the problems and pollution of modern life and have started to rebuild their lives with their new found freedom. Some have even re-found their trust in the human race..."
Strangely, this revelation had the opposite effect on me.
- Totalsports at http://www.totalsports.net/news/20000411/null/990411.1196.html , culled from a Reuters report of Tuesday, April 11, 2000
- Barga Gnome City European Gnome Sanctuary homepage at http://www.barganews.com/gnomes/index.html which is the front page of a very amusing site that includes, among other things, photos of mistreated and neglected Gnomes. Definitely worth checking out.
UPDATE #1 : June 16, 2002
strawberry kindly informs me that yesterday's Bangkok Post reports the conviction of a 39-year-old man in Rheims, France, for stealing a garden gnome. In summing up, the judge commented sarcastically that the man and his (unconvicted) accomplices "met up with some tipsy dwarves -- who were certainly not under Snow White's supervision -- who attacked them". Clearly the GGLF is still having credibility issues!
UPDATE #2 : August 12, 2002
strawberry again has news to share from the front line of the gnome freedom movement, and again, the Bangkok Post is first with Gnomic Gnews. Their August 11th issue contains a report concerning a mushroom hunter (mushrooms, eh...) who stumbled upon 101 gnomes arranged in a circle in the woods in Podensac, near Normandy.
"It was very nice to look at, very tastefully done," the local police chief said... from which I gather that he's probably seen enough gnome circles in his time to be able to recognize a particularly aesthetically pleasing one when he sees it. Or maybe Gnome circle appreciation is part of French police training.
Thanks once again go out to strawberry who, I am beginning to suspect, is relatively diminutive, has poorly painted, bright red cheeks, and habitually grips a tiny fishing rod.
All gnome-snatching news gratefully received. /msg mofaha