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Eco Zad action targeting up to 50 sites

Zadistes trying to stop projects all over France

As police work to clear environmental protesters from the Notre-Dame-des-Landes airport site near Nantes, groups at around 50 other sites are trying to stop projects as varied as a nuclear dump, wind farm, holiday complex and bypasses.

Militant green protesters took over the Nantes airport site in 2009, calling it a Zone à Défendre (ZAD) – and are now being copied by other ‘zadiste’ protesters.

After abandoning the airport plan, President Macron said he wanted to see no more ZADs in France but government figures revealed by Le Figaro show it fears 50 sites could be potential ZADs and that 12 could degenerate into violent confrontations as happened at the Sivens dam site in Tarn where a protestor was killed.

There is particular tension over occupied sites at a planned nuclear dump in Bure, Meuse; a Center Parcs at Roybon, Isère;  and the west Strasbourg mot­or­way bypass.

Officials are also wary of plans for ‘1,000-cow’ farms in Somme and Creuse, waste treatment plants in Loire and Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, a  huge electricity transformer in Aveyron, a wind farm in Aude, a mine waste dump in Creuse and a Toulouse shopping mall. 

However, not all sites are violent or involve illegally occupying land as at Nantes. Protesters against a €32million bypass through a Dordogne beauty spot, for example, have been given use of private land as a base. One zadiste there, Michel André, 77, said: “We are not violent. It is not a case of NIMBY as you say in English.

“We just want to make sure a jewel in our region is not spoilt.”

Paris University 8 geopolitics professor Philippe Subra, who has written a book about Nantes and Sivens ZADs, said some of the groups were becoming more radical and resorting more regularly to illegal ways of campaigning to stop projects.

He said the Notre-Dame-des-Landes idea was original and simple, “to occupy land permanently, day and night to prevent any work going ahead. Its aim was to resist any attempt of evacuation, even with force.”

They expected public backing as “images of Robocop style police, masked and in uniform fighting young, defenceless people does not look good” but they were also helped because local farmers and politicians against the scheme supported them.

In Dordogne, the bypass will go through a Unesco Bio­sphere Reserve and protesters – whose average age is 70 –  set up Le Zad de Beynac.

Mr André said “anyone, either for or against, can visit us, share a cup of coffee and hear our arguments”.

However, Mr Subra says that, unlike in Dordogne, more people are willing to break the law to show the strength of their feeling: “With no real strong political party in opposition there is a radicalisation in the way people are protesting now and I think we will see actions becoming tougher.”

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