Evictions and Destruction on the ZAD Airport Protest Site
The ZAD is an airport protest site in the west of France about 15 miles north of Nantes. The airport project was first proposed over forty years ago and has faced constant local resistance ever since. The project is in the hands of the multinational company Vinci, who also provide us with such « services » as prisons, motorways and nuclear power stations. It is the particular pet project of Jean Marc Ayrault, the former mayor of Nantes and current Prime Minister of France. In 2009 the area hosted a climate camp, since when the empty houses, fields and forests have been gradually filling up with people disgusted enough by the idea of this project to stay and resist. The reasons for staying are as diverse as the people but the occupiers are united by an idea that fighting capitalism is an important part of every day life.
Until the second week of October you could still arrive on the ZAD and tour around over 30 diverse squats spread across the two thousand hectares of threatened land. The people united there to organise together and fight the airport project but life was far from unpleasant. You could visit the beautiful straw bale house bakery which provided the whole area with free price delicious organic bread twice a week, the numerous collective gardens, the home made wind turbine to provide electricity, an incredible range of cabins on the ground and in the trees made from collected materials, and you probably would have been able to go to a concert, join us on an action, help us organise and come to a few workshops to learn to climb, or knit, or maybe build a rocket stove.
Right at the moment though we don’t seem to be leaving ourselves much time for knitting workshops. On Tuesday 16th October the large scale evictions of the place we call home started, and they weren’t messing around. Riot vans arrived en masse from six in the morning and had already evicted seven squatted houses and burned down a large cabin by ten o’clock in the
morning. Approximately 1200 police were mobilized for this so-called ‘operation Cesar’, protecting the workers who use plain white vans, hiding their company names. Since then we have seen nearly all of those houses razed to the ground, and most of the other houses, cabins and homes evicted and destroyed. We have also nearly all inhaled a deeply unhealthy amount of tear gas and seen enough blue vans and uniforms to last a lifetime.
November 17th marked a huge change in this struggle. Somewhere between 20,000 and 40,000 (depending who you ask) people were united together on the ZAD for the huge Reoccupation Demo. This involved a march from the nearby town of Notre Dame des Landes (where the demo stretched for nearly eight kilometres) and a chestnut plantation close to the centre of the ZAD where huge numbers of people got to work building new cabins. All day it was hard to move without getting in the way of people hammering, sawing and carrying heavy things into the forest. Witnessing this collective energy, and around ten large cabins fly up in the course of an afternoon is something I feel sure no one who was there will forget. More than that, I hope that every single person who squelched through the mud that day now feels a part of the ZAD, and that we will not lose this collective force and feeling of strength.
Since then there has been vast amounts of construction happening all over the ZAD. In fact it is hard to find a place on the zone where you can’t hear hammering. Unfortunately for the last few days this has been accompanied by the all-too-familiar sounds of concussion grenades and tear gas bombs. All of the newly constructed tree houses and the ground-level cabin in the Rohanne Forest were once again destroyed on Saturday in a constant cloud of tear gas. Despite being attacked and gassed all day, the huge number of supporters on the ground stayed until long after dark, until the police finally crawled back to where they came from. The new cabins from the reoccupation demo remain but they seem at risk of being destroyed soon. During the weekend there were huge numbers of injuries for the first time since the evictions started, and also instances of police attacking barricades in the middle of the night. They are now militarising the zone, staying all night on the roads to stop us from moving around, and gradually upping the pressure.
We got the message yesterday that the evictions will stop if we stop building, and I can smile as I type that I feel quite sure that will not happen. We will continue to build, and continue to fight against this oppression and this useless senseless project. We will not let them win so easily. There are more of us than ever and it is impossible not to feel strong, even as they destroy our homes again and again. We have ever more people to keep rebuilding.
There is a call out for solidarity actions on our website (www.zad.nadir.org)
The struggle continues for us, and we welcome the support of those as disillusioned as us with this company, the state, and the control on our every day lives. It’s far from over, this is just the beginning.
Call out for actions during the moment of eviction of the ZAD
new call out for occupation