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Notre-Dame-des-Landes Airport: Another Demonstration by Opponents in Nantes

Translated Wednesday 26 February 2014, by Gene Zbikowski

Several thousand opponents of the Notre-Dame-des-Landes airport marched in the streets of Nantes on February 22. They came to reaffirm their rejection of the project, two months after the publication of decrees permitting the resumption of work. Clashes on the edges of the demonstration injured several people.

“Ayraultport no thanks,” “No to the Ayrault pig,” “Vinci, beat it, Ayrault, the same,” “Neither airport nor metropolis, the city is ours” … A month before the municipal elections, the demonstrators’ chants directly attacked Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, the former deputy and mayor of Nantes and a fervent partisan of the airport project.

The organizers of the demonstration did not announce how many people were expected to participate, but over 200 tractors and 60 coaches had been announced.

A major police presence – around a thousand men – was mobilized. A little before noon, flying squads of police, vehicles pulling water cannon and vehicles setting up temporary barricades were deployed all around downtown. On Feb. 21, the prefecture had ordered a change in the march route so that it would not go through downtown. And yet, on the edges of the demonstration, several clashes occurred in the afternoon.

“The party has been wrecked, the organizers have been outflanked by the radical fringe on which they have based themselves since the beginning of this movement,” the prefecture said. At 4 p.m. the authorities put the number of police deployed on the ground who had been injured at four. One person was arrested.

At different points along the route of the march, which brought out thousands, protesters threw projectiles at the police and attacked a police station and an agency of the Vinci corporation, which has the contract to build the airport. The demonstrators occupied the police station located on the cours Olivier de Clisson, according to the prefecture. Several organizers condemned provocation on the part of the police, aimed at discrediting the opposition movement.

Before the beginning of the construction work

This demonstration was organized two months after the publication of the prefectural decrees authorizing preliminary work for the construction of the airport: the transfer of plant or animal species, archeological surveys and land-clearing. Appeals have been filed against these decrees but they do not suspend the decrees. The work still has not begun. The inauguration of the future airport, initially set for 2017, is not now envisaged before “2019 or 2020” by the partisans of building the new airport.

The project, which was recognized as promoting the public interest in 2008, is justified by its partisans in both the Socialist Party and the conservative UMP party by the risk that the present Nantes Atlantique airport will become saturated and by the hindrance it constitutes to building in downtown Nantes, which is subject to aircraft noise.

According to an IFOP public opinion poll published on Feb. 22, a majority of French people (56%) say they are opposed to the future airport, 24% being favorable and 20% having no opinion. The opinion poll was ordered by Agir pour l’environnement, Attac, and the ACIPA, the main association of opponents to the project.

The main organizations opposing the project

The ADECA, the "Association de Défense des Exploitants Concernés par l’Aéroport", founded in 1973, is historically the first group of opponents to the project, before it was mothballed during the 1980s and 1990s. Its president is Sylvain Fresneau, a farmer in the Zone for Later Development (ZAD) dedicated to the airport.

The ACIPA, the "Association Citoyenne Intercommunale des Populations concernées par le projet d’Aéroport de Notre-Dame-des-Landes", set up in 2000, today is the biggest association of opponents. It includes farmers, property-owners and tenants who are directly concerned as well as adversaries of the project across France. Among its activists there are many from the “1960s generation” who fought against the military camp in the Larzac region in the 1970s and the Plogoff nuclear power plant in the early 1980s.

The CEDPA, "Collectif des élus doutant de la pertinence de l’aéroport", set up in 2009, claims a thousand elected officials from different political parties, notably the Green Party, the Party of the Left and the MODEM. The CEDPA’s two co-presidents are the Party of the Left general councilor Françoise Verchère and the mayor of Notre-Dame-des-Landes (no political party) Jean-Paul Naud.

The farmers who are opposed to the project, most of whom are close to the Confédération paysanne, organized themselves in 2011 in the “COPAIN”: the Collectif des Organisations Professionnelles Agricoles INdignées par le projet d’aéroport.

Anti-capitalist circles: Since 2009-2010, several dozen anti-capitalist activists have occupied the ZAD, which they have re-christened the “Zone to be Defended”, to oppose “the airport and its world.”

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