A protest over a new motorway in southern France this weekend has been deemed high-risk amid fears of violence.
France’s internal police intelligence service, Renseignement Territorial, said in a note seen by the radio network RTL that “thousands” of people are expected at the demonstration, including “about hundred radical elements”.
Between 1,000 and 2,000 protesters are expected on Saturday (April 22) and Sunday (April 23) to voice their opposition to the proposed A69 between Toulouse and Castres.
The 53-km road will run parallel to the current route nationale and see 300-400 hectares of farmland tarmacked over.
Among the environmental groups expected to be at the demonstration is Soulèvements de la Terre, which France’s interior minister, Gérald Darmanin, called to be disbanded after violence at a protest over ‘mega reservoirs’ in western France.
The demonstration has been classified as “high risk”, with building sites and infrastructure linked to the road project thought to be in danger of being sabotaged.
The authorities, including the prefect of the Haute-Garonne department, fear protesters will try to occupy the site in a bid to stop construction work. As a result, there will be a significant law enforcement presence on Saturday.
However, protesters say the protest will be “festive and open to families”.
They have criticised the project as being useless when a national road already runs between Toulouse and Castres.
One protester told FranceInfo: “I am a mother with two children, I do not really want to give them concrete for their futures”.
But Bernard Carayon, mayor of the Lavaur commune, said the motorway will create 1,000 jobs directly, with more indirect jobs to follow.
He criticised opponents of the project that "is now the subject of a political consensus except on the far left" and which has the support of "economic players, a very large majority of farmers and citizens, 75% in favour according to a recent poll".