On Monday a judge of the Supreme Court in Nantes announced the verdict to evict the historical inhabitants of the Notre-Dame-des-Landes (NDDL) area where a new airport is slated to be built by the French State. This new airport would be located 30km north of Nantes and constructed by multinational Vinci.
Eight of the eleven families were granted a two-month period to leave, until March 26. "In fact the protection granted to housing also protects the farms," said Defence lawyer Mr. Le Moigne. The three other families affected by the evictions have no more time on the Zad and must leave immediately.
On the same day in London climate activists from Plane Stupid were convicted for their occupation of a Heathrow airport runway in July 2015 over plans to extend the airport by the Cameron conservative government, breaking an election promise.
Civil aviation is one sector where carbon emissions are rapidly growing contributing to climate change, with little being done to constrain or reduce greenhouse gas pollution from this and the associated shipping industry. Currently 5 per cent of global emissions, more than the UK and Germany combined, come from shipping and aviation. The UN climate conference in Paris considered this sector in the draft versions of the agreement, but any mention of this sector was dropped from the final agreement.
According to Presse Ocean report (fr), Pierre Gramaize, first vice president of the high court of Nantes, ruled on the issue of the expulsion of the 'historical' inhabitants living in eleven homes and four farms located in the heart of the area dedicated to the airport project of Notre-Dame-des-Landes. The decision confirmed the expulsion, as requested by a subsidiary of Vinci, but for no financial penalty to be applied. The judge found the penalty fine request to be "disproportionate for families who have only modest means."
Animal breeder Sylvain Fresneau, a farmer and resident of the Zad of Notre-Dame-des-Landes, reacted to the decision of TGI Nantes saying "We will go to prison because we resist" (On ira en prison parce qu’on résistera). He faces eviction from his home and his farm at the end of a period of two months. Presse Ocean report (fr)
Bruno Retailleau, President of the Regional Council of Pays-de-la-Loire, commented (Ouest France Report) on the decision made by the court of Nantes: "The decision is absolutely clear. The advantage is that it places the ball in the government camp. It pushes the state to break the silence, the ambiguity. If the judge also did not accompany a financial penalty in the decision, it is simply because he considers that it is time for the political decisions to take over."
In a session of the Regional Council of Pays-de-la-Loire in Nantes on Monday a motion was passed by the Council for the evacuation of the ZAD and for construction of the airport to proceed. The Regional Council of Pays-de-la-Loire is controlled by the right wing Republican Party (RP) headed by Bruno Retailleau, and the far right Front Nationale (FN).
The Socialist Party spokeperson Christophe Clergeau argued that protest against the abuses of power and support neighbors are normal, but if there is a decision to evacuate of the ZAD, the state must then ensure there is sufficient resources to do so in the current state of emergency. He put this forward as the reason for the Socialist Party abstaining from the vote, according to a report from Presse Ocean (fr)
The Greens (EELV) voted against the motion, denouncing the lack of democracy and lack of transparency on the airport.
The Greens (EELV) issued a media statement saying that the expulsion decision is a disaster for the famillies concerned. They articulated that current appeals concerning the law on water and protected species are still ongoing in regard to the airport and highlighted that the President of the Republic gave a commitment not to start any work nor any expulsions until all appeals are exhausted. They also specified that the European Commission has also given notice to France to comply with European environmental law on this issue.
"Environmentalists reaffirm their firm opposition to ecological and economic nonsense. Alternative options exist that respect local democracy and environment: optimization of the existing Nantes airport, which preserves agricultural land and biodiversity, should be the preferred option." the Greens statement said.
Farmer activist and Greens member of the Euopean Parliament (MEP) José Bové, in an interview with Public Senat (fr) called upon the French President Hollande and Environment Minister Ségolène Royal to intervene. "Political speech has to take over. I call on the President and the Minister of the Environment that they will not implement this decision because it could create a much more serious threat to public order, and we need to open the debate. We can not settle the matter by the expulsion of the inhabitants and historical peasants."
Bove warned that thousands of people are likely to protect the farms and homes facing eviction. He warned that the disturbance of public order will be greater if the decision is implemented, than if it is not. "To implement the decision, the Prefecture must take hold of the security forces. The state can say that the risk is most important, but it does not have the means to make it feasible" without risking public order.
It is in the interests of President Francois Hollande to intervene and find a solution, Bove said, or an alliance between the Socialist Party (PS) and the Greens (EELV) for the 2017 Presidential elections would be impossible.
Confederation Paysanne, the union of farmers and agricultural workers issued a statement reiterating its full support to those who fight every day, old and new, for saving farmland and against a vision of the world exceeded. They declared there will be Mobilisations ahead, and that this airport will not see the day!
The project has a forty year history and has long been the subject of protests and blockades. Most recently, on 9th January 2016 20,000 people occupied the Ring Road near Nantes for an afternoon and into the evening.
A week later 5000 people rallied in Rennes against NDDL airport and ZAD evictions. These two protests were mirrored by many more smaller protests around France in solidarity.
On Monday night, after the evictions verdict was handed down, hundreds of opponents of the airport gathered as they faced off riot police in a tense scene in the centre of Nantes, according to Ocean Presse (fr), and marched around city streets. The protesters chanted "resistance, sabotage, stop Vinci" and "Neither prison nor evictions will bury our rebellion".
At the Nantes Town Hall on Rue de Strasbourg, a protester emptied a fire extinguisher filled with paint on the facade. The extinguisher was then thrown into a glass door of the building.
In the town of Rennes a general meeting was held in the University of Rennes debating what action to take to protest against the legal decision. People from this meeting decided to march to the city center, where they established a ZAD area marked by big letters on the building facade. One report said 150 people protested. The police decided to charge the protest using flash granades and tear gas to disperse the protestors, according to a Ouest France report (fr).
A National mobilization across France has been called for 27 February against #NDDL
350.org released the following statement about the NDDL opponents and the Heathrow 13 activists.
"We stand in solidarity with the activists in France and the UK, who now face evictions and jail sentences for standing up to protect the climate during protests against the expanding aviation industry. They took bold steps where governments have stumbled, acting out of principle to try and stop the increase in pollution to our air and atmosphere by an industry whose reckless expansion poses a grave threat to our climate.
"Today, courts in each country simultaneously announced verdicts against the #Heathrow13 and 11 families from Notre-Dame-des-Landes (near Nantes) who have taken a peaceful stand against airport expansion. We are grateful for their dedication and shocked by the unjust and disproportionate verdicts that fail to take into account the overwhelming threat posed by climate change."