During the weekend of 23-25 November, violent clashes occurred, as military police attacked activists and environmentalists on an area slated for an airport project in Notre-Dame-des-Landes – a village near Nantes, while riot police violently dispersed a support demonstration in the city. The events have forced major media and politicians to publicly admit that there is an issue.
Some forty years ago, the French State and the local authorities devised the project of building a huge, international airport on the area. Then, oil was cheap and from the development of air traffic at the time, they calculated that Nantes Airport would be saturated by 1983-84. However, in 2012 Nantes Airport is still working at only 75% of its capacity.
In 1974, the French Government reserved the area, so that no new building permit could be delivered. Thus, nature and small traditional farming were preserved. The incredible sum of money necessary for the project was not available, so that the works never started.
In the mid 2000 years, the project was dug out of forgiveness, mainly supported by the long time mayor of Nantes, Jean-Marc Ayrault, who is now Prime Minister of France. The main contractor of the public-private partnership is the building corporation Vinci, which has also been contracted to build the East End Crossing, in Kentucky. The local representative of the Ministry of Interior, who was in charge until 2009, got a position at Vinci as soon as he left his official function, raising the suspicion that he was already working for the corporation as a civil servant.
Further, the area is a wetland, the importance of which for global climate has been proved in between, so that French Law now demands that any destruction of wetland be compensated by the creation of another one elsewhere. Vinci does not provide for it in its project, which makes it unlawful.
As the project was dug out of the administration files in 2005, the directly impacted people – local inhabitants and small farmers – formed the Inter Communal Association of Impacted Populations, ACIPA, organizing meetings, debates and music shows. Leftist and environmentalist activists who opposed the project then decided to occupy the area, settling in abandoned houses and building cabins in the woods. Collective gardens, libraries, a newspaper, individual farming projects were created.
Resistance was not unified. The farmers and inhabitants were suspicious of environmentalists or anarchist squatters. Even the activist groups differed from each other. But on October 16th, military police harassment began, bringing the different groups closer to each other. Local farmers and inhabitants dropped their suspicion. On November 27th, a huge demonstration (some 38000 people) took place on the area. Political stars from ‘green’ and ‘leftist’ parties showed up. But on Friday November 23rd, the military police violently attacked. As a result, resisters became more united than they had ever been, while dissent is growing among the ‘green’ and ‘progressive’ politicians who take part in government. They have obtained a six months postponement to allow an environmental impact study. But evictions go on. There are wounded and people detained.
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