In the Northwest of France, about 20km NW of the city of Nantes, there is a community in struggle near the town of Notre-Dame-des-Landes against a new airport and motorway. The locals there have been resisting the project in an area already home to numerous airports for about forty years. It’s somewhat of a pet project of a guy called Jean-Marc Ayrault, once mayor of Nantes, who is of late the prime minister of France.
Since 2009, there have been people moving in from all over to occupy empty houses and terrains owned by the local authorities and then by Vinci, the contractor for the airport. At times there were around 30 separate terrains, forests, fields, or houses squatted and occupied against the project, while also creating spaces for collective living, with gardening, and self-built houses, bike workshops, etc…
The place has been occupied by the French military since mid-October, when they began “Opération César” in an attempt to clear the area (about 10km squared) of opponents to the project, who have responded with a fierce resistance, despite the systematic destruction of homes and equally fierce police brutality.
The week of 23 November last, a group of people occupied a woodland on the site that had already been evicted three times, building treehouses and structures on the ground, as well as putting up nets and other structures in the trees where we could live and resist any more eviction attempts. On the weekend of 23, the police returned in strength, along with workers and machines, to attempt to evict the forest again.
I spent two days and nights in a tree, while battle raged in other parts
of the forest and in areas outside of it, between protestors and police,
listening to the explosions of concussion grenades, rubber bullets and, of course, tear gas. High up in an oak, we were unable to flee the noxious clouds like our comrades on the ground (many of whom were prepared, with gas masks or, at least, scarves and lemon juice). We who were up high, sat and watched oncoming clouds of teargas and braced ourselves, and with scarves and lemon juice suffered through it until it passed on, only to be hit by more immediately. There was a feeling of powerlessness, being in this position, for there was really nothing else to be done, but to suffer through it. My lungs burned, my eyes flooded with tears, and I had difficulty breathing, but nowhere to go. This, throughout two days and nights.
On the ground, people fought with the police, with various projectiles and fireworks, all really nothing compared to these heavily-armoured servants of corporate interest, armed to the teeth with these humanitarian weapons of crowd control.
I had trouble thinking about how it went for the birds of the forest,
between the tear gas and the concussion grenades. - Camille