Nantes

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40,000 form human chain around the ZAD

If any more proof is needed that direct action works, take a trip to Nantes in western France.

Fifteen or so miles outside the city, the regional authority backed by the French national government, has been trying to build “Nantes International” Airport. It claims it is required to replace the single runway airport in the city in order to attract investment into the area. The opponents commissioned their own study which refuted those claims. They also point out that Nantes is just a little over two hours by fast train from Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris. The new airport is dismissed as little more than an ego project of the former major of Nantes, Jean-Marc Ayrault, now the Prime Minister of France. It has been dubbed ‘Ayrauoport’.

Last weekend (11th May) I was one of the 40,000 or so people who formed a 25 kilometre-long human chain around the site of the airport. The huge numbers have been inspired by the direct action of last winter. During the winter months there were tear-gas battles in the woods as police fought to remove hundreds of young protesters who had set up make-shift homes in support of the local community.  The courage of the protesters from the self-styled ZAD as they resisted the police in the bitter cold and driving rain of last winter both cemented their support in the local community and inspired people from around France and beyond.

Now there are support groups, called “committees”, in 200 towns and cities.  Each group stages demonstrations in their own towns and lobbies politicians in their own areas in support of the Nantes campaigners. Hardly a week goes by without one of the committees cycling or walking through France to the site of the proposed airport. Last weekend on my way back from the protest I spied a billboard in Le Mans– over 100 miles from Nantes– opposing the airport.

The ZAD resistance followed on from the 28 day hunger strike staged last year during the presidential election campaign by four peasant farmers against the plan to evict them from their properties. 

The local community has fought a great campaign over the years – and recently won an important court case in the courts where the judge ruled that the airport’s promoters had failed to carry out proper flood plain and environmental assessments of the project, as required by the European Union.  The campaigners believe that the ruling from the court may provide a way for the Government to drop the airport and save face. But the reason the Government is under so much pressure is because of the way that direct action – the hunger strikes and the resistance from ZAD – electrified support from across France. No wonder there was such a carnival atmosphere last Saturday. We were holding hands around an airport that will probably now never be built.

Latest video from the ZAD

This is a hugely evocative video of protests against new Nantes Airport. Farmers, activists & residents campaigning together.

The date for everyones diaries is May 11th when they are planning their biggest mass action ever and are looking to get 100,000 people (remember they got 40,000 last year) to symbolically surround the land that would be needed for the airport.

All info here with translation to English: http://zad.nadir.org/?lang=en

Tens of thousands re-occupy the ZAD

On Saturday Le Monde reported that an incredible 25,000 activists took direct action to reoccupy the site of a proposed airport in Nantes, France.

Some protesters had been evicted from their squats. The amazing reoccupation united local farmers who risk losing their land with climate activists and thousands of protesters concerned about cost, pollution and noise.

We have been inspired by the passionate grassroots support for local people’s struggle to take their lives into their own hands and say, “no” to an unaffordable, polluting airport being built on their homes and farms. Check out these beautiful photos of the ZAD and you’ll wish you were there too.

For more information about the ZAD, visit zad.nadir.org.

This blog was re-posted from the Transition Heathrow website.

Call for a re-occupation demonstration at the ZAD

Have your pitchforks, timber, nails and tools to hand... A meet on the morning of the 17 November at Zone A Défendre" (the "ZAD," the site of the planned airport) Notre-Dame des Landes for a re-occupation demonstration has been called for. 

The planned assembly point and directions to the campsite for the eve of the action will be announced later. Please consult the ZAD website regularly: http://zad.nadir.org

The struggle against the proposed airport at Notre-Dame des Landes has continually intensified over the last few years. Among other actions, an occupation movement has taken over the threatened buildings and woods. Last year, confronted with the increasing threat to the various houses, huts, and kitchen gardens, the inhabitants of the ZAD and their supporting collectives called for a reoccupation demonstration in the event of evictions.

On Tuesday 16 October, the long feared police attack began. The 1800 hectares of the ZAD were invaded by 1200 police. Little by little, they attacked the occupied houses and huts, destroying them, and scrupulously removing all of the debris from the zone in order that nothing that might serve the occupiers be left behind. The occupiers and those that came to support them resisted, built barricades, reoccupied. Together, we did what we had to do to obstruct the machines of destruction and block police movements...

Determination has been increased by the huge wave of solidarity from all over France and beyond: daily demonstrations in Nantes and other cities, material support of supplies and food, and actions targeting Parti Socialist and Vinci offices, those airport builders and destroyers of our lives. Though most of the houses have already been evicted, as well as some of the huts, many other occupiers remain, spread out across the woods and fields, and in the trees. New constructions have already been begun.

Apart from the occupiers, the "legal" inhabitants and farmers continue to be threatened. They will also be forced to leave the ZAD in the coming months. In other words, this supersized eviction attempt is here to stay. Those great wits at the Prefecture code-named their military eviction operation "Caesar." It is for us to prove that the resistance to the airport is indeed "implacable" and that they will eventually be defeated and ridiculed.

WHY RESIST?

At Notre-Dames des Landes, the decision-makers and developers have been planning a new airport to perfect their vision of a vast metropolis in endless economic growth. Their plan is to obliterate 2000 hectares of agricultural land and homes with concrete. This ZAD, "Zone d’Aménagement Différé" (Special Planning Zone) devenue "Zone A Défendre." (Zone of resistance) is 25km north of Nantes. There has been organised resistance to the project since the beginning.

This campaign is at the intersection of issues over which we all must unite and devise collective strategies. These issues include the struggle against the drip feeding of over-refined foods, the industrial society and the consequent global warming, the policy of economic development, the control of the territory, urban sprawl, the conformity of each person’s existence, the privatisation of public space, the myth of endless growth, and the illusion of democratic participation...

The opponents of the airport remain as opposed to its construction as ever. The campaign against it continues with demonstrations, legal action, links with other campaigns, hunger strikes, distribution of newspapers, disruption of motorway toll booths, opposition to land surveys, sabotage, interruptions to environmental and archaelogical surveys, occupations of offices and workplaces, etc...

‘We live here, we’re staying here!’

Over the past three days, French riot police have been violently evicting inhabitants at The ZAD, that is to say those who are defending the vast area around Nantes which has been earmarked for a new airport.

For years, hundreds of activists have joined locals by moving onto this 1,600 hectare area of rich agricultural land in order to defend it from the threat of a proposed new Nantes airport. Yet in the name of the ‘public good’, over 1,000 riot police began a siege of the area earlier this week. In a bid to clear the ZAD to make way for a new airport, the French authorities have been forcibly removing people from their homes. They arrived armed with helicopters, riot vans, and trucks (to carry away the bricks from the houses they’d destroyed!). Through the use of tear gas, arrest, and the occasional act of arson (on Wednesday, eye witnesses report having seen police burning down someone’s home without even confirming first that it was empty), the riot cops have been violently evicting residents at the ZAD.

The fight against a new Nantes airport has been a high profile affair in France. During the general elections, two local farmers went on a 28 day hunger strike after having been threatened with compulsory purchase orders on the land their families had farmed for generations. The struggle at Nantes has attracted international attention too; in July this year people from all over Europe arrived at the ZAD for the European Forum Against Useless Projects.

Many homes have been evicted at over the last three days to make way for a ‘secure’ zone on the land around the proposed new airport. Yet the activists and locals currently remain in force and are trying to take back the land. Three houses and many fields are still occupied by ZAD residents, who have been joined by supporters and activists from far and wide. The battle is on, and there’s everything to fight for.

If you can get down there to help defend the ZAD, or if you want to send a message of support, you can contact them at zad@riseup.net.

ZAD website: http://zad.nadir.org/

ZAD Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/ACIPA/345153846717

Hunger strikes in Nantes

 

Picture the scene: it’s early in the morning. The sun is shining and you’re sitting having your breakfast, which happens to be a café au lait and a baguette because, for the purposes of this exercise, you are French. While you quietly contemplate some elaborate existentialist theory (did I mention you’re French?), you notice the post drop through the letterbox. One official looking letter drops to the floor. You open it, cautiously…

Oh là là! What has fallen onto your doormat is nothing less than a compulsory purchase order for your farmstead! That’s right, the farmstead you’ve lived and worked on for as long as you care to remember, the ground you’ve tended to with your own bare hands, your past, your present, your future… All of this is being taken from you. Stolen. Demanded by a government which claims to represent you. And to what end? In order that a multi-billion pound industry can build a new runway over the top of it. Why, you ask? So that they can increase their profit margins of course (tsk, don’t waste our time with stupid questions, Monsieur!!).

Sadly this is no elaborate horror story. This week, the first two farmers in Nantes have been issued with compulsory purchase orders for their land by the government in order to make way for a second Nantes airport. What is particularly dreadful about this is that the authorities who want to build the airport are embroiled in legal challenges from those campaigning against the airport. If the campaigner’s challenges are successful, the airport will be stopped but the farmers will still have lost their land and their livelihood.

Faced with the total destruction of their way of life and the loss of their homes, these brave farmers are fighting back. This week marks the beginning of their hunger strike.

For years campaigners in and around Nantes have been fighting against plans for a new airport. In March, thousands of campaigners took to the streets of Paris to protest against the plans. Many of them had travelled 400km from Nantes to the French capital on their bikes and tractors. This Wednesday, in support of the two farmers and their hunger strike, campaigners set up camp outside the Monument de la Résistance in Nantes with their sheep and tractors! They need your support – please join the campaigners if you can or email them a message of support.

With plans to expand airports popping up all over the EU, there has been an unprecedented EU-wide fight against expansion. As well as fierce battles in Nantes, Plane Stupid activists recently visited anti-airport expansion campaigners in Munich, and in Frankfurt, where campaigners have recently won a ban on night flights. Up to 5,000 thousand campaigners are turning up every Monday to take part in protests in the new airport terminal, with up to 20,000 people showing up for Saturday specials.

Throughout history people have taken bold actions to stop injustices from taking place on their doorstep. The French farmers are now doing just that. By going on hunger strike they are not only standing up for local communities and the climate in the face of powerful corporate interest and single minded politicians, they are demonstrating to us all that we have the ability to take the power back. Join them, and let’s take that power back together.

Nantes and the Tracto-Bike

There are many reasons to love the French. Where would we be now without our stripy tops, crème brulées or berets? And now, from the nation which has shown us that it is possible to project sex appeal without the need for soap, comes another unlikely combination. Enter the Tracto-Bike!

Before you jump to conclusions, I can assure you this is not an obscure new bicycle powered tractor invention from our froggy cousins across the Channel. No indeed. This is a case of the French are doing what they're best at – protesting. French stylee.

So, a few days ago, a coalition of tractors and bicycles are took off (slowly!) on their 400km six day journey from Nantes to Paris to protest against plans for a new Nantes airport. The residents of Nantes have good reason to be up in arms. They are fighting off plans for an enormous new airport which, if built, would see the destruction of an area which is highly biodiverse, as well as being a prime dairy producing region, covering around 2,000 hectares.

The most ludicrous thing of all is that Nantes already has an airport which is not even at full capacity. Yet despite this fact, and despite the obvious implications that building a whole new airport complete with fossil fuel spewing aircraft has for an increasingly warming climate, the French authorities seem to think that a massive new airport is justified. Unsurprisingly, the French public are unimpressed.

So if you happen to be free on November 12th then why not grab your bike, or your tractor, and head over to Paris to join the farmers, activists, politicians and local residents as they arrive in style in their protest against a new Nantes airport? The campaign against Nantes airport is already the biggest in Europe and looks set to get bigger. May the politicians ignore the farmers at their peril!

The French Heathrow?

I have just returned from Nantes in South West France where 4,500 people demonstrated against plans for a new airport on Sunday (12th July). 14,000 over 2 days. This could become the 'French Heathrow'. The site of a victory as iconic as the struggle against the third runway.

The campaign has brought together a vibrant coalition of local residents, environmentalists, sympathetic politicians and direct action activists who have set up the ZAD camp in the area. It is a community-driven campaign protecting the homes and livelihood and land of small-holders whose families have farmed on the agricultural land for generations.

Over the past decade the campaign has grown in strength and radicalism. Already the local community has staged direct action protests. They are now supported by a camp of activists from all over Europe. On Sunday they all came together for what, each year, has become one of Europe's biggest annual protests. 4,500 people formed the human aeroplane, pictured above, with the defiant message that "we will win". Amongst those joining them for the weekend protest was both the radical activist Jose Bove and the Green Party candidate in next year's presidential election.

The campaigners have succeeded in making their fight a national issue. Hardly surprising as it has become the biggest airport campaign in Europe. If the Greens get enough votes in the Presidential Election they will insist that the dropping of the new airport will be a key condition in any deal they may do with the socialists.

Nantes already has an airport. The campaigners argue that, just a few hours by the fast TGV from Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, the proposed airport - Nantes International - is little more than an exercise in ego-building by the regional politicians in the ruling socialist party. The campaigners have commissioned a report from the respected Dutch economic consultancy, CE Delft, to prove that the airport is unnecessary.

It is an inspiring fight. What the campaigners need is support from activists across Europe. Go down to the camp. And, in a few months, they may be organizing an event, possibly in Paris, where supporters will be asked to come from all over Europe. Our chance to deal another devastating blow to airport building in Europe.

For more information and directions to the camp you can get in touch with zad@riseup.net

Plane Stupid takes a visit to the ZAD

Isn't the countryside noisy? The life which reverberates all around you in Notre Dame des Landes is astounding, a reminder of the world we have to save. The crickets never stop singing, every time you sit still some weird and wonderful new bug crawls across your leg, and the sides of the roads are packed with wild roses, bluebells, and forget-me-nots. But it's all under threat.

The government of France is locked into an unholy alliance that is depressingly familiar. Here, as in Sipson, Hasty Lane, Essex and Edinburgh, the aviation industry has coaxed our "representatives" with its oily tendrils into a belief that the destruction of lives, habitats and the planet for profit is in the best interests of all.
The plan? Concrete over 2000 hectares of some of the most pristine biodiversity in France, taking away homes and communities, condemning local residents to a future of poor health and sleepless nights.
The aim? Two runways and two motorways, making Notre Dames des Landes into Europe's most westerly hub, taking over some of Heathrow's stopover capacity. All this, even as smaller airports around France and the UK are being forced to close due to a lack of demand. The hell-bent determination of the industry fixated on growth is not only morally criminal, its economically nonsensical.

But the resistance is growing. Since Plane Stupid last visited the ZAD (Zone a Defendre - the proposed site of the airport), the number of occupied spaces has rocketed from one to about 16. In fact, no one seems entirely sure how many people are now living here, preparing for battle: all that is certain is that it is growing constantly and people are prepared to put up a big fight. Together with those set to lose their homes and land, activists from across France and the world have been taking over sites bought up by the council to make way for the airport, and transforming them into living examples of the world they want to live in. There's a bakery, which turns out enough bread twice a week to feed the whole ZAD, a bicycle workshop, a skipped supermarket which seems never to run out, a kitchens collective, an internet cafe, loads of chickens, herb gardens, treehouses, and, of course, vegetables.

This weekend we came to help open a new site, where our friend from Reclaim the Fields are reclaiming the runway. At 9 a.m. we gathered at Les Planchettes, the HQ of the ZAD where the main meetings and info point are based in a beautiful old farmhouse. The spectacle was extraordinary: about 350 people carrying machetes, pitchforks, scythes and spades, riding in tractors and trucks or walking alongside, many with masks on to hide their identities from the skulking gendarme who accompanied us at a distance. The sound system and the samba band competed for airtime, as banners were hoisted up between trees across the roads we walked down proclaiming the resistance.

Finally we reached the soon-to-be site - a seemingly impenetrable wall of brambles - and while some of us grabbed a quick glass of 30cent vin rouge from the rapidly assembled bar, the tractors belonging to local farmers rolled onto the field, crushing the brambles top to make way for our machetes. Like an army of ants, the people fanned out across the area, some hacking back the undergrowth, some trimming the trees, others turning the soil and pulling up the roots, and others scraping everything together into huge mounds ready for burning. Then almost as quickly as they had descended. the swarm pulled back, leaving the 8 people who will live there with a large plot of cultivable land ready for planting. Resistance is fertile.

So many lives and hopes are embedded in this beautiful area. Our hosts, Paul and Elizabeth, have been fighting the coming of the airport for decades. They will not sell their home, with their chickens and horse and amazing rhubarb jam, to be flattened for profit. Paul sends his solidarity to Sipson, which he visited in 2009 and describes as "une belle quartier" of which he's got many fond memories - especially the pub. From the people living 15 metres up in their beautiful fortified tree camp, to those who stand to lose generations of history on the land, the communities here stand side by side in their struggle and in ours.

The governments and corporations complicit in this campaign of demolition and disappropriation must be stopped. We will continue to strengthen out grassroots links with the people here, and will not let the bulldozers roll. BTP (Battiments Travaux Publiques) and Vinci, the key players in this ransack, have operations across Europe - including numerous subsidiaries in the UK. Vinci reckons they are "convinced of the need to adopt a responsible attitude to climate change" - their plans for the ZAD are so far from "responsible" it's hard even to laugh. Both groups should be targeted wherever they try to establish themselves, and made to realise that their involvement in the attempts to destroy Notre Dame des Landes will make them an enemy of the global resistance.