“The countdown has been started. I am here to warn you,” France's Junior Environment Minister Sebastien Lecornu said when he visited Notre-Dame-Des-Landes in western France Saturday. He gave an ultimatum to protesters called “zadistes” to leave the area, but the squatters said they would fight until the end.
Protesters have been squatting on the site of the proposed new airport since 2009. Due to fierce opposition, the French government abandoned plans in January to build a new airport that the government had planned 50 years ago. Local residents, who supported the construction plan at a referendum in 2016, criticized the government’s overturn of the referendum result, while some even say democracy has been denied by the decision. According to estimation by France’s parliamentary finance committee, the government should compensate construction company Vinci SA by paying about 200 million-600 million euros.
In the meantime, 250-300 demonstrators are not leaving the area even after the plan to construct the airport has been scrapped. They are arguing that they will run a collective farm there and will preserve the area as a place of victory.
There are senses of crisis within the Macron administration that it should not give in to violence and blackmail anymore. Protesters have been involved in more than 50 development projects nationwide since they occupied over 1,650 hectares of wetlands in Notre-Dame-des-Landes.
In Beynac in southwestern France, where the Dordogne River runs through the city, protesters have been gathering to protest against the construction of a 3.4-meter bypass. They built temporary houses there and installed water and sewage system for a long-term squatting of the area. Michelle Andre, the leader of the opposition movement in Beynac, praised protesters of the Notre-Dame-des-Landes and called them “warriors,” saying, “If they come here and join forces, it would be a big help.” He even wrote a letter to the Notre-Dame-des-Landes protesters requesting them to come and join forces in return for the distribution of the squatted land.
In February, the Macron administration raided and forcefully dispersed protesters, who had been squatting the Bure area for two years to protest against the construction of nuclear waste dump site. But French news media report that squatters are planning to squat the area again sometime around June.
Jung-Min Dong email@example.com