A YouTube posting by two members of One Nation is causing concern in Sénaillac-Lauzès, a village of about 60 residents in the Lot department in south-west France.
What is One Nation?
One Nation is a conspiracy movement which describes itself as a “wave of planetary emancipation that invites people to serenely reclaim their personal power and refuse all illegitimate authority.”
The group has around 2,700 members, who exchange information on Telegram, an instant messaging app which offers end-to-end encryption and the option to permanently delete text and photographs after a certain period of time.
Members attempt to distance themselves from the administrative and legal structures of society, believing that there is “a network of high-ranking people in the upper echelons of this world who [are a] threat to our children.”
Co-founder Alice Pazalmar is a Covid sceptic and anti-vaxxer who has withdrawn her children from school and is believed to be living with them in a van.
One Nation’s ideas are said to align with those of the American "sovereign citizens" movement, conspiracy theory specialist Tristan Mendès France told Franceinfo.
"This movement appeared in the United States in the 1970s,” he said. “The 'sovereign citizens' tend to question the reality of the state in which they live: reality at the level of the law, of the administration.
“They see themselves as individuals detached from any societal organisation and they question institutions, justice [and] the police.”
A 200-hectare estate
In the One Nation video published on YouTube, Ms Pazalmar and her partner Sylvain announced that they are buying a 200-hectare estate in Lot to host the activities of the conspiracy movement.
Ms Pazalmar said that the land will be a “huge laboratory of experimentation,” where members of One Nation can “live and be in complete simplicity.”
It will apparently offer a home to "inventors, apprenticeships, craftsmen, families, children [...] to artisans of a new world which fights for emancipation and which dismantles old frameworks of being.”
Sylvain added that: “It is the perfect place for deconstructing old structures, for being born and reborn, for blooming and growing old together.”
The two spokespersons of the movement have created an online crowdfunding campaign to collect donations and mobilise public participation, which had reached more than €273,000 as of October 7. The group says its crowdfunding page has been taken down so they are looking for a new way to finance the project.
One Nation says that it needs more than €750,000 to transform the property into its OneLab “laboratory.”
The estate comprises several buildings, including a stone house, and meadows and woods, according to La Dépêche du Midi.
One Nation needs to collect the €750,000 before it can sign the final acte de vente définitif, but the preliminary compromis de vente contract has already been signed.
The names of the sellers and purchasers, "who did not mention the said association at any time", cannot be passed on. "The file had all the required characteristics of solvency and legitimacy," according to the estate agent responsible for the sale.
Some people have questioned how Ms Pazalmar and Sylvain – while eschewing the laws and economic order of the modern world – will justify signing a legal contract to secure the property, and whether they will agree to pay the property taxes and bills tied up with their ownership.
Local mayor is concerned
The mayor of the village, Christophe Benac, is worried about the arrival of the One Nation movement.
“These people refuse to send their children to school and are against all French laws. They want to withdraw and put themselves on the fringes of society", he told RTL, fearing that "rather strange things" are happening on the estate.
The Lot prefecture has not commented on this announcement, but other public authorities recognise that this is a "protest movement, which calls for civil disobedience, against a background of sectarian drift and mystical orientation.”
The establishment of One Nation in the department is not surprising to the prefecture, because "there have been many new populations, sometimes on the fringes, sometimes radical, who have joined the rural territories, the very isolated sectors of our countryside.
“This is the case for the Lot, Creuse or even Corrèze," it told La Dépêche. "With One Nation, what worries us is the capacity of its members to mobilise and collect many individuals in their wake.
“In Lot they have also found a favourable terrain where a protest movement already exists. This is a reality".
Info Sectes Midi-Pyrénées, an association which detects and prevents sectarianism noted last April that "certain survivalist or conspiracy-type aberrations are flourishing as a result of the health crisis.”
It was receiving "six to eight calls or emails a week,” from friends and family members worried about their loved ones being led astray by One Nation, France 3 reported.
"Alice Pazalmar, which is in fact a pseudonym, knows how to attract, seduce and motivate people. She has managed to bring together several alternative-deviant groups from all over France,” said Simone Risch of Infos-Sectes Midi-Pyrénées
“In our opinion, this conspiracy movement represents a risk, particularly for children who could find themselves cut off from the world and no longer have any relations with society. Not to mention possible health problems," she added.
This association would like to see more controls from the authorities. "Do the institutions take them seriously? Not sure...", she comments.
Miviludes is the interministerial body charged with observing and analysing sectarian phenomena in France, coordinating preventive action from public authorities where necessary, and informing the public about the risks and dangers of sectarian movements.
Links to Lola Montemaggi
Alice Pazalmar had more than 33,000 followers before her Facebook page was suspended this spring.
The website Conspiracy Watch defines her as "a French conspiracy video maker evolving in the so-called 'sovereign citizens' movement.”
She is said to have links to Lola Montemaggi, the mother who was a member of One Nation and who organised the abduction of her own daughter in April.
Custody of the eight-year-old girl had been given to her grandmother after Ms Montemaggi said that she wanted to “live on the margins of society” in a motorhome “under the radar.”
The kidnap was carried out in Poulières (Vosges) by three men who handed the child over to her mother within 20 minutes.
Ms Montemaggi and her daughter were later found in a squat in an old factory in Sainte-Croix, Switzerland and Ms Montemaggi was taken into Swiss custody.