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French minister wants eco group disbanded over reservoir violence

Interior minister Gérald Darmanin accused Les Soulèvements de la Terre of being the origins of the unrest at Sainte-Soline

The interior minister accused the group of inciting the violence at Saturday’s protest, but the group strongly denies this Pic: Jo Bouroch / Shutterstock

France’s interior minister has accused an environmental campaign group of being behind the violence at a reservoir protest last weekend and called for it to be disbanded.

Gérald Darmanin was speaking after police and protesters clashed at Sainte-Soline in western France on Saturday (March 25).

He said the collective Les Soulèvements de la Terre had made calls for “insurrection” and the “invading of enterprises”.

Read more: Several injured in ‘water basin protest’ in France: What happened?  

In a question and answer session at the French parliament on Tuesday (March 28), Mr Darmanin called for the “dissolution” of the group, which he said was “at the origin of the violent actions” at Sainte-Soline. The protest itself had been banned by local authorities.

Mr Darmanin also accused the group of “strong actions against law enforcement” and said that he would present a plan for the dissolution of the activists at the next cabinet meeting. If it chooses, the government can then decide to propose a dissolution decree.

Read more: What are France’s ‘mega reservoirs’ and why are they so controversial?

‘Villainous attempt to draw attention away from the murderous violence’ 

The Les Soulèvements de la Terre group hit back strongly, saying “the only dissolution that should seriously be considered today is the dissolution of this government”.

In a tweet, it called the minister’s words “a villainous attempt by the interior minister to draw attention away from the murderous violence he unleashed against the demonstrators in Sainte-Soline" and a desire "to stifle a unifying political movement".

The group, along with the other activists present, has accused law enforcement groups of escalating the violence and denies that the protesters intensified the clashes. 

Organisers said that more than 30,000 people were at the protests, while authorities claim 6,000 were present.

A police inquiry has been opened “to determine the exact nature…and circumstances” of the serious injuries sustained by three protesters at the event (including one man in a coma), the Niort prosecutor said in a press release on March 26.

Other inquiries have also been opened, including into the offences of “forbidden protest”, “violence against officers”, and “destruction of property”.

Read also

What are France’s ‘mega reservoirs’ and why are they so controversial?

Several injured in ‘water basin protest’ in France: What happened? 

Man in coma after ‘intolerable violence’ at France reservoir protests

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