Riot police clash with anti-capitalist squatters in France
Officers forcibly evict protesters from a decade-old camp built to block construction of an airport
Riot police have used tear gas and stun grenades to disperse environmental activists from a camp in western France.
Roughly 2,500 officers were involved in the eviction at Notre-Dame-des-Landes, which began at dawn on Monday. Activists responded by throwing mud, rocks and petrol bombs at police.
The group of around 250 protesters also used burning barricades of tyres, wooden pallets, hay bales and electricity poles to try to keep the gendarmes at bay, Agence France-Presse says.
Activists first occupied the 4,000-acre piece of land, now known as the ZAD (zone to be defended), in 2008 in protest against plans to build an international airport on the site.
After “years of dithering” by politicians over the future hub, President Emmanuel Macron scrapped the project in January, giving squatters until spring to clear out, The Times reports.
But the group of environmentalists, anarchists and anti-capitalists, have refused to leave, arguing that they have created a successful model of sustainable living.
For most who live there, the ZAD offers an “alternative, simpler and more utopian way of life”, The Guardian says.
Many have abandoned their tents and caravans and built permanent homes, or occupied abandoned farms, making them habitable and planting the land around, it adds.
“The state institutions have no power here,” one resident told the newspaper in December. “We have organised our lives without them – that’s what they don’t like. Even if they expel us we’ll come back. After a month, there will be thousands of us.”
Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said the police would remain on site “as long as is necessary” to prevent activists from returning.