Dear committees, We are a certain number of people who felt the need to write to you from the movement of occupation on the ZAD. Some months ago, while the eviction threat and works were paused, carried nevertheless by the strength of the fighting solidarity of last autumn, many amoung us started to entertain the possibility of the airport project being abandoned. We had even started to imagine what could become of this zone in social, agricultural and political terms. While these reflections were crucial and helped us to breathe new life into the struggle and a new sense to the movement, we feel today a regain of tension.
The pro-airport people, the police bureaucracy, Vinci and their cohorts are undeniably re-starting their offensives: warlike announcements and victorious commentaries of the rejection of the appeal to the European Union courts, leaks of sneaky plans of agent provocateurs, upcoming publication of police decrees necessary to the “improvement of the project”, hazy responses from the bosses of the civil aviation department about the cost of maintaining the current airport in Nantes, preparation of the transfer of endangered species and works on the barreau routier (4 lane highway to precede the airport), European authorization to the French government to release 150 million euros to build the airport… The sky which darkens in this time, the beginning of winter, is swept by dirty rumours and converging signs. It reminds us of the necessity of seriously focusing ourselves on the possibility of starting construction, accompanied or preceded by new police offensives. After having, in this letter, pared down to the most urgent and made the points of the threats that weigh on the zad and on the different points of view on actions, demos and reactions in the coming months, we would also like to take the time to give some feedback on life here and on some of the major events of these past months. We feel like we have not always managed to transmit where we were in the struggle and what was going on since the end of the military occupation, or only in a scattered manner. We see well that, from far away, it’s not always easy to figure out what is up in the fields and forests.
Before going forward, let’s remember that we are not speaking here in the name of the “movement of occupation” a diverse and heterogenous entity without unified representation (which is a good thing). We have nevertheless taken on the task in the second part of making heard all the way to where you live some voices of occupiers and we hope to re-start these dialogues and necessary exchanges to envision together what is to follow. The beginning of 2014 will be without a doubt decisive and thus we need to prepare ourselves accordingly. We can’t win the battles to come without counting on the cumulative force of all the committees. One of the important goals of this letter is to invite all the local committees to a meeting, notably those who are geographically the closest, Saturday January 11th 2014 (place TDB close to the ZAD) to prepare the next communal actions.
Be up to the level of the threat
The announcement of the schedule of the police bureaucracy’s plans concerning the implementation of the airport project has yet again been pushed back. However, the big steps they are planning are more or less clear today, as are the first views and reactions from our side.
– Disturbing the displacement of species and ecological compensation
During a one year period preceding the evictions, Vinci stuffed the pockets of the experts of the private company Biotope for making an inventory of the species present on the site of the ZAD. Their work was to estimate and rank according to their criteria the value of the bocage (regionally specific type of countryside with fields and forests) near Nantes and to apply the quotas of compensation. To obtain the privilege of coming and ruining the place where we live, they are supposed to evict and “re-house” the mohawked salamanders and other “precious” species, move certain dead trees hosting insects, re-make a couple hundred meters of hedges, of grassy wetlands, and dig a couple dozen swamps. Logically it should be done in the surrounding region, on land they have bought or rented with this goal. But, as in their logic, everything is exchangeable, wherever and in just about any way, it is also possible for them to “respect” their quotas while operating at the opposite corner of France and even in other countries.
Beyond the NDDL airport there is also a putting into place of techniques of environmental engineering, largely experimental and emblematic of modern greenwashing, which could serve as a model and provide legitimacy for the feasibility of other projects like this one. For companies like Vinci it is well possible to buy the right to pollute and to destroy. Mercenary enterprises like Biotope or Dervenn take on the task of legitimizing this. Ecological compensation is the incarnation of an administrative logic of control intent on being able to configure and quantify the entire living world. We have a different relationship with the woods, fields and paths, to the stories that pass through them and to the living beings who inhabit our daily life. These raw links, knowledge, tools, weapons, and accomplices, resources or refuges will not be flattened. We refuse absolutely that our lives be boxed in or extrapolated into infinity in scientific equations according to economic principles.
The implementation of the species displacement and ecological compensation will mark the beginning of work on the future airport. They should theoretically do it before March 31st to “respect the biological cycles”. To block them, would be thus to considerably delay this phase which is necessary and emblematic for them and the works on the airport. The first ponds freshly dug have already been filled in. In a communal callout (which can be found on the website htttps://zad.nadir.org), the opponents of the airport called for people to come block the compensation works on the ground for those who could, or protest by actions at town halls, Socialist Party (ruling party in France) offices, police bureaucracy headquarters, Vinci offices, or anywhere else you see fit. The alert will be widely spread in case of work. Be ready.
– Bar the barreau routier
The construction of the airport should begin with the construction of a 4 lane highway, the barreau routier, which is supposed to serve and link the Nantes-Rennes highway and the Nantes- St. Nazaire highway to amplify the growth and homogenization of these urban areas. The two projects, the airport and the barreau routier, are co-dependent, inseparable, and destructive in both cases. One can be used in the future to justify the necessity of completing the other. On the ground, we agree on the necessity to react in big numbers from the beginning of the first construction of the road, notably the east-side highway interchange. A big demo to block the construction as well as a resistance camp next to it begin to be discussed. (For more info and detailed maps on the upcoming construction, check the website)
– In the case of a police offensive and a second wave of eviction, multiply the fronts
In case of a new massive police intervention, there are still open callouts for occupations of town halls, police headquarters, and places of centralized power everywhere. Let it be understood that the arrival of reinforcements and supplies on the zone, as in autumn 2012, will be crucial. Inspired by the solidarity actions of farmers during the days of fighting on the 23rd & 24th of last November, it appears possible to start planning now, amoung other things, a massive blockade of important highway axes and of the flow of goods and people essential to the region’s economy which can be put in place the day we need it. A diversity of options can be foreseen and organized ahead of time in a decentralized way: selective roadblocks (where some people can pass), rolling blockades, pickets, joint actions with the local farmers… this perspective permits to those who can’t come to the ZAD to effectively demonstrate their support and their anger, by forcing the police to open two fronts, and by complicating troop movements, accentuating the economic impact of the military operation and the direct impact outside of the ZAD. If you are in a local committee that is geographically close, we invite you to participate in blocking the region by preparing ahead of time and co-ordinating on this subject. If you are further away, the callout to occupy centers of power still stands.
– Demo of the movement in Nantes on the february 22nd
We would like a big demo organized in Nantes this spring, a short time before the two rounds of municipal elections, or right afterwards. If this demo takes place in the context of resistance to the construction going on the ground or just before, it will give anew a strong visibility to the movement of opposition to the airport. At the time of the displacement of species, it would be a new surge from the countryside to the heart of the Nantes metropolis. Let us note in passing that the leaders of the Green Party who were so eloquent and talkative while the cameras were focused on NDDL have showed themselves to be well discreet while they negotiated the lists of elected officials with the Socialist Party for the municipal elections.
– Meeting of the local committees January 18th
To deepen these propositions and create these actions together we invite you with the ACIPA and COPAIN to a big assembly of local committees (notably those in this region but not only) Saturday January 18th 2014 from 10am to 7pm in Fay de Bretagne. More infos on firstname.lastname@example.org
Debriefing with an eye to the future
Some recent stories up ’til the present…
In autumn of 2012 the government launched operation César and sent 2,000 riot cops to evict the ZAD of Notre Dame des Landes, where Jean-Marc Ayrault (previously mayor of Nantes, now the prime minister), Vinci and their cohorts dreamed of building an airport. But the resistance on the ground- many reinforcements of barricades, projectiles, tree-climbing or incessant re-construction of cabins- would unleash an immense movement of solidarity and actions all over France and in other countries. The 17th of November, after one continuous month of evictions, 40,000 people came to build in a big collective workday a space for political organization and for life on the zad: la chat-teigne (a pun on the chestnut forest/ the stubborn cat). A little village in the woods with a muddy wild-west atmosphere, with houses and paths on stilts, a kitchen, a no-taverne (pun on tavern/bar and the no-tav movement in the Susa Valley of Italy), sleeping dormitories, a nursery, a big meeting hall, a workshop and an infirmary…
– End of the military occupation and the commission of dialogue
November 24, 2012, after days of fighting started again in the Rohan forest where the squatters were joined by the inhabitants of surrounding towns and supported by roadblocks of main axes of the region with dozens of tractors, and a simultaneous demo of 10,000 people in Nantes, the government announced they would take a pause in the project and delay cutting the forest. That same evening, they would announce a “commission of dialogue” (negotiations), not for ever questioning the basis of the the project but simply to “explain it better”. A stop to evictions was announced while awaiting the conclusions of the commission. But the government wasn’t gonna let it go just like that, they intended to keep on the pressure with a military occupation at all the crossroads of the zone. During 5 months, the military police continually rotated to block comings and goings 24/7, block the transport of material, to control and log identities and carry out targeted arrests. Their goal was to divide the zone, hoping to create internal tensions, and to make daily life miserable by isolating us. Their strategy was partially neutralized by the ingeniousness and stubbornness of all those who continued to sneak in necessary supplies by the fields and in the mud, to harass the police at the roadblocks, to circle and insult them or to get past in tricky ways that loosened the noose. During this period, many new cabins and habitations were built and re-built, and barricades and large trenches in the asphalt were maintained on certain strategic accesses and notably on the D281, a road still dotted today with watchtowers, chicanes (mini-barricades that slow traffic), and all sorts of constructions.
April 11th, 2013, some days before a big demo to occupy agricultural land and plant new collective gardens, the dialogue commission published its conclusions, recommending that new studies be done, notably on the subject of environmental and agricultural compensation. After this delay, the tactic of military occupation, costly and difficult to maintain, making life shitty for those around and with mounting critiques; would happily come to an end. April 15th, 2013, two days after they initially retreated, the police were ambushed and responded with an attack on the inhabitants of the zad who had re-occupied the crossroads in the meantime. This return would result in new confrontations with many wounded. They have not re-installed the checkpoints since.
– A season waiting for the axe to fall
Without the immediate threat of large scale evictions,we entered into a new phase of the struggle. Of course for them it was only a delay in construction, the time to take into account the recommendations of the diverse commissions which had given their conclusions in April: they counted on coming back and finishing off this defended zone. On the ground, we were agreed on the fact that we would be wrong to let our guard down and on the idea that mobilization was still crucial. During these months of “break”, the zone found other rhythms and other ways of struggle. New things at stake and new ambitions were developed: * the Sème ta zad dynamic, starting many different agricultural projects, deepening reflections around sharing and cultivating land… * worksites and reflections on collective structures and living spaces on the zad * building of separate sleeping structures by women and trans to make a safe space for themselves * permanent vigilance so as to not let the preliminary works of the airport and the barreau routier restart * reinforcement of links between different components of the struggle and with the inhabitants of surrounding areas * support to those who are facing trials or who have already been sentenced * support to other zads like in Avignon, the departure of collective van/caravan convoys to go meet other places in resistance…
The airport project appears much weakened, but it is nonetheless necessary to begin here to imagine and build what the zone could become after the end of the airport project. There is a large risk that in the case that the project is abandoned, the norms take the upper hand and push aside the people, lifestyles, habitats and subversive cultural forms which experiment richly today. Diverse options are to be feared: the redistribution of land for profit to land-grabbing farmers, put into a glass bubble for the creation of a wild nature park like natura 2000, a program of urbanization or development of semi-urban strip-malls. To stave off these unhappy possibilities, we have worked these past months to densify the links and collective practices that can never be assimilated by these logics.
So here is some things we’ve seen from some important types of actions or reflections which have marked these past months:
–Drilling and pond digging, unblocking the D281 and dialogue with sledgehammers: resistance on the ground.
During these months, the powerlessness of the police bureaucracy to operate on the zone has become increasingly blatant. During many public walks of reconnaissance on the path planned for the barreau routier, the survey stakes were pulled up. In March 2013, in the middle of the dialogue commission, freshly installed electrical towers for a preparatory construction site were destroyed with sledgehammers by about a hundred people. They have not been replaced since then.
In June, AGO (Grande Ouest Airport conglomerate consisting mostly of VINCI and the Chamber of Commerce) tried to drill for water samples to measure the water table, accompanied by a large police force. These works were necessary to the evaluation of ecological compensation measures. After a week of hard work to put the measuring devices in place, the drill holes were all sabotaged in a couple of hours with the validation of the entire movement, who considered that these studies were only happening to legitimize the airport project.
The following week, the police headquarters tried to permanently close off circulation on the D281. Arguing that this road was too dangerous and anyways that it would disappear in the construction of the airport, the authorities sent machines to block the road by digging trenches in the asphalt and putting huge rocks and concrete blocks in front. Two days later, the road was re-opened with the help of some tractors (and bitter disagreement, let’s not glamorize things). It is still open.
More recently, some squatters found a backhoe operating on the zone to dig a pond designated for “ecological compensation”. After a little discussion with the landowner, he re-filled the hole himself.
While those advancing the project have had quite some difficulty operating on the zone, the intensity of what is at stake internally and the post-eviction fatigue have manifested themselves in a difficulty to leave the zone. Thus, few new “outside” offensive actions have been made by the movement of occupation since the eviction period. The role of the support committees at this level remains crucial.
– Farmer dynamics: towards a communalising of land and practices?
In 1972 the ADECA was created, an association in defense of farmers concerned by the airport. For 40 years, the farmers of the ZAD, joined in 2000 by the ACIPA (inter-county association of citizen populations concerned by the airport project) and other associations, have multiplied the actions, studies, and information made public… In May of 2011, le Sabot farm was the first vegetable growing project on the ZAD to be initiated during a big public demo. Le Sabot would rapidly start a donation based market stand to feed those living around, this struggle and struggles elsewhere. At that time, there were still a dozen land-owning farmers who had chosen to stay and refuse eminent domain and the money offered in exchange for their land. They went to court and were in the process of becoming squatters on their own land.
In 2011 several agricultural organizations in the region banded together to create COPAIN (friend) 44, a group of farmers who had no land on the zad but who were ready to fiercely oppose the project of the airport. During the evictions and in the months that followed, the “band of COPAINs” were on the front lines, from le Rosier to la Chat-teigne, and squatted a house, Bellevue, to protect it from destruction, which has become a space of organization and a meeting point. Their “vigilant tractors” have become an important lever in the struggle.
Since December of 2012, the Sème ta Zad assembly has gathered together farmers from COPAIN, from the zad, squatters, and those from supporting committees to engage in a reflection about collective management of available land on the ZAD, but also on the means and ends of agricultural production freed from the weight of input-heavy agriculture and its cohort of institutions. This assembly prolonged complicities born on the barricades and looks to define the bases of responses in the face of conflicts and in relation to forces that can bring up the question of land and land-usage… It is a way to envisage the farming future of the zone and of sustainable forms of communication and solidarity.
The callout to the Sème ta Zad demo on April 13th, 2013 was the result of these rich and intense encounters. Some months after this collective action of support in starting up a dozen new farming projects, a common space to distribute the harvest, the “not-market”, would take place once a week on the liberated crossroads (previously the crossroads of the Moulin de Rohanne) which had been permanently occupied by the military police during the 5 preceding months. Other intiatives came out of this assembly, searching for the future to hold together different agricultural dynamics, to give them a common purpose.
The rise in strength of this inspiring dimension of the struggle has not been without emotional debates about politics and practices: the difficulty of co-habitations between conventional agriculture and the desire to overcome agro-chemical practices or leave land fallow, the desire to allow land access to farmers and also maintain protection for occupied homes, critical questions about raising livestock and hunting… Multiple times people came to blows over these differences, but more cordial exchanges have been increasing little by little. Today a terrain of cohabitation exists in the struggle without masking the different positions and the possible mutations of different practices. At the end of this past summer, the sème ta zad adventure debriefed on their accomplishments. Here are some examples (amoung others):
the creation of a workshop to milk cows and make cheese, butter, milk and cream at the Bellevue farm
the decision to leave some acres in fallow experimentation
the cultivation of acres of bread wheat for the collective bakery
the communal harvest of 10 tons of potatoes to divide amoung the different living places, with two horses and several dozen humans
Other projects linked to food production were developed outside of the sème ta zad framework, like the production of spirulina in a specially built greenhouse and a medicinal plant garden.
In early October 2013, the ADECA, COPAIN, and Sème ta Zad decided on a new common action on the fields left fallow by AGO-Vinci. The objective was to till and seed 21 hectares in one day with green manure crops, grazing plants and bread wheat. The ludicrous legal ordinance, obtained the day before by AGO-Vinci which forbade all sowing and planting on the zone, did not hamper in the least the ballet of tractors and hand throwing of seeds, nor did it disturb the planting of new tree hedges to densify the countryside and reduce field size. In November an arboretum project was begun, a “barreau forestier” along the path of the barreau routier. In the following weeks projects were announced for the creation of orchards, a group caring for goats and sheep, and process to resème ta zad, which aims to better organize collectively to feed the zad, as well as other struggles and friend places.
– Life on the ZAD
Since the big wave of evictions, many constructions have appeared, thus reinforcing the movement of occupation. We count offhand more than sixty spaces of living and collective organization, from the “community center” of la Wardine, where concerts, dance classes and discussions are organized, to individual cabins, passing by little hamlets (No Name, Vraies Rouges, la Chat-teigne), to the treetop village of la Gare. We saw emerge the pallet cathedral at les 100 noms, le port and its floating cabin, and today the royal domain of Youpi Youpi. Some outside collectives, like those from Auvergne, Limousin, and Rouen, came to build their own shacks and palaces, to have a place to stay on the zone, often shared with more permanent inhabitants. The parisians from the squat le Transfo brought “le Transfu”, a two-story cabin that they pre-fabricated and assembled in place, to be a center for the medic and auto-media groups. These places are added to the houses and farms still occupied by locals and farmers who refuse to leave. Some houses are sadly continuing to be emptied these past months and were immediately destroyed inside by AGO-VINCI: destruction of stairs, windows, plumbing… A goal for the movement has been each time to squat the houses as soon as possible before they are completely destroyed, to barricade or protect them with tractors, and to refurbish them. That is what happened at le Moulin de Rohanne, at les Domaines, or at la Freuzière, even in these past weeks. We estimate that well over 200 people live permanently on the zone, to which are added the many supporters and friends passing by and the certainty that hundreds of others can roll up on short notice for serious threats.
For many occupants of the Zad, the evictions were a crazy and galvanizing experience, but also a moment of destruction, of losing one’s bearings and of existing communities being turned upside down. In the swirling mass of demos and callouts to resistance, the past year has seen a large number of new arrivals. Many have noticed, each in their manner: there are more people and cabins on the Zad than before the evictions, a tested and proven collective force against operation César, magical encounters and realized dreams, projects for living and cultivating the land long term. At the same time there has been infighting, the fear of rotting from the inside, a feeling of being scattered, scary and depressing stories, and thick latent tensions which sometimes translated into violences or pressure by ideologically dogmatic groups or individuals. The months of evictions also brought reinforcements in the form of people whose political stance is profoundly rebellious, those often marginalized and forced into precarious living situations by social and economic systems, who were not to be rejected, as they are everywhere else.
The big melting pot of these past months has had its share of friction between the “old” people, the “new” people, supporters, people who live in the surrounding areas, farmers and groups passing by. Conflicts crystallized around questions of good neighbor practices, sexism, classism, usage of alcohol and other drugs, positions on the struggle or the accessibility of roads on the ZAD. Finding forms of cohabitation and autonomy on a large scale, in a “lawless zone” for the State, is one of the major political goals, which can be captivating or arduous. We come to the question of the movement today: how to not close your eyes to or run away from the conflicts between groups or people, but take them head on and try to free a path that doesn’t use recourse to repressive institutions, whether they be police, legal, or psychiatric? Other incidents have drastically affected morale. Arsons ravaged structures like the Bison Futé, mythical watchtower built on the D281, the (non) market hall of the liberated crossroads or the house of la Sécherie. The destruction of a house at the crossroads of les Ardillères squatted for several years, was narrowly avoided when the inhabitants returned home in time to extinguish the multiple simultaneous gasoline fires. After some collective motivation, some cleaning and rebuilding, the house, rebaptised “the Phoenix” was soon livable and looked “flaming new”. These attacks are often done in secrecy, and we assume they are in large part done by those clearly hostile to the zad. They have tested the tenacity of the movement. Yet the Phoenix and the non-market hall have been repaired and rebuilt and are still standing.
While the support from the inhabitants of the surrounding villages was mind-blowing during the evictions, the circulation on the D281, amoung other things, created some conflicts. Some local people felt like the chicanes, diy speedbumps, and encounters with unpleasant people on the road were too much for them. Some occupiers pointed their finger at the aggressive drivers and restated their desire to keep defensive structures such as partial barricades on the road in case of attacks. In response, a meeting open to all those living in the surrounding area was organized in a nearby village at the end of the summer. The goal was to meet each other, to confront the real problems and to disassemble the fantastical stereotypes on both sides. This was an effective response to the police and media montage of overexaggerated events picked from the police blotter, aiming to destablize squatter-local relations and justify the return of the police. Despite the strategy of tension used by the authorities, it seems today that many of the conflicts which can make everyday life shitty and weaken the movement of occupation have eased up. The bases of dialogue and of solidarity reinforce each other and the rich and seemingly improbable alliance between new arrivals, grizzled farmers and long-time radicals, between autonomous squatters and NGOs, those against the airport and those against capitalism- has not been broken. This front has woven itself together in a way that will not be easy to sweep aside.
As in every other habitat teeming with life, as in every other struggle which has taken root, there is a necessary time to take when arriving on the zad to understand the local culture, the people and the ways of functioning. While this position demands a certain humility, it is indispensable for those who have been a long time in this struggle to involve themselves in the transmission of history. In the first post-eviction period, the immediate needs of rebuilding shelter, re-finding footing, or re-making strong collectives often took precedence over the curiosity and desire of meeting new people. We were often divided by enthusiasm for visitors and the constant support, and being fed up with the “activist tourism” side, leaving the feeling of being used as a radical tour guide or historian without lasting connections to those we met. Moreover, it’s important to many of us that the Zad doesn’t enclose itself into a self-centered alternative ghetto but draws its strength from the porosity with the world and in that which is overturned by friction. Living together on the ZAD is not only a matter of numbers but of collective intelligence, of circulation and co-ordination between groups… sharing stories and different viewpoints. There never has been and never will be a homogenous entity of the “zadiste”, “occupier” or “squatter”. We can even consider as a goal to not enclose ourselves in this representation, to break down barriers alongside the farmers and inhabitants of the zone who have become effectively “squatters” on their own land by their resistance, and all the others who take part in this movement.
Many collective structures have been created or reinforced: medics, pirate radio, auto-media group, workshops for fixing bikes, for writing, for screenprinting… Everyday life is often punctuated by larger tasks (welding stoves from gas bottles or building houses from clay, tree-climbing or straightening up the barricades on the road) and the welcome of international gatherings (action samba, autonomous media…). Now, in the beginning of winter, there are plans to build a large storage barn for sème ta zad in the place where the house of le Rosier was destroyed, and to build a windmill next to the empire state building of les 100 noms. Every Monday, the zad news, a bulletin of local meetings and meetups is delivered to the letterboxes of all the living places with its announcements, informations, weekly schedule and often with articles of internal reflection. During these months, the “naturalists in struggle” have multiplied their comings and goings on the zone, doing the work of a counter-inquiry in the face of these large projects of ecological compensation and transfer of species.
Life on the Zad is also punctuated by the arrival of large scale events (40-60,000 people), mostly organized by the ACIPA and the local committees. While the movement of occupation was not really involved with the human chain on May 11th (people held hands in a 15 mile long circle around the zone), during the summer gathering on the 3rd & 4th of August, people from here went to table literature, organize discussions, and cook pizzas, while others prioritized an alternative to the big event, with a big soundsystem in neighboring fields.
One of the structural elements is the continuation of bimonthly general assemblies, which since January 2013 bring together different components of the movement to exchange on strategies, perspectives, and goals of daily life. They crystallize around the possibility to organize starting from a commonly shared reality, that of living more or less long-term on the ZAD and around, but also with all those from the region or elsewhere who wish to participate in the reflections and mix their voice with the others that resound in the barn of the vache-rit, and warm up the atmosphere.
– La chateigne
In December of 2012, a callout was made to the local committees and collectives, asking that they each take a week taking care of la chat-teigne logistically to bring their experiences, ideas, and tools; so that we could enrich ourselves with stories of other resistances here, and that those from elsewhere could learn from the zad and get involved. During winter and spring, many groups responded to the challenge and formed convoys to come pass some days together in the countryside…
In the chat-teigne there crossed electrical installation workshops and big games- walks against the high tension power lines that strayed near to electrical pylons or promenades to get to know the path of the planned barreau routier and joyously tear out the survey stakes- photo expositions and oral storytelling of the zad and the struggle by the resisting inhabitants (rad group of long-time locals)- the building of cabins, a dome, and even a timber framed villa or prefabricated castle elsewhere on the zone- tales of collective gardens, struggles of Indonesian farmers and stories of eco-radicals in the British anti-roads movement of the 90s- feminist dynamics and worksites with a chosen gender mixity of women and trans- preparation for demos and collective departures for the “zad” in Avignon- discussions about what would constitute a “victory” or about big plans of urbanization and gentrification- war kitchens and delicious menus- workshops for diy gas masks and barricade defense, massage, or samba- parties, singing in the no-taverne and dance parties that almost broke the floorboards… This place provided for meetings between groups from Lyon, Auvergne, Diois, Dijon, from the Finistère, Rennes, the north of Nozay, the plateau of the thousand cows, Paris… and many other fields of action: prison abolitionists, anti- fracking, anti-speciesists, auto-media groups…
This strong experience shows how the resistance here has begun to resonate with the hopes, revolts and rebels dispersed a little bit everywhere. Many of the diverse local committees that came to la chat-teigne said that the time spent on the zad was a precious moment for them to meet each other outside of their normal framework, organize together, and return home stronger. In May, a new appeal was made to diverse collectives for them to continue to regularly occupy the chat-teigne. This callout has not worked as well as the first one, and sadly the village is a bit abandoned. We have seen that outside of the regular meetings which take place there, the local energy is not enough to make it a place that really lives. So we’re taking advantage of this letter to re-launch the callout, to say that the energy brought by visiting groups is still crucial, even in the calm periods. (to get in contact: email@example.com)
– Facing repression
Repression was already a constant reality in the years before evictions, and has continued to be so. After every arrest, the legal team does follow-up work, whether that be communicating with arrestees, picking them up at the cop shop or contacting lawyers, the family, or close friends. They maintain the like with those in prison, providing moral and financial support.
During the first month of Operation César in autumn 2012, the police headquarters were still dreaming of “high quality environmental” eviction and didn’t bother to make arrests, contenting themselves with finding identities and filing them, wounding people and destroying homes. At the end of October, some of the first people were arrested by cops disguised in black-bloc who incited them to fight and then dragged them from behind the barricades. Starting with this moment, and continuing through the 5 months of military occupation, the arrests never stopped, most often of people who were new on the zone. The new arrivals often had scanty knowledge of legal procedure and weren’t used to defending themselves in interrogation or counting on outside pressure. Quite often tensions would rise over attempts to ask for people’s national identity cards or when occupiers of the zad responded to daily pressure by punctual harassment from groups of military police, sometimes with a cost of physical injury and people arrested anew. It should be noted that before the evictions, the vast majority of occupants had the habit of denying to give their ID papers when demanded, sometimes followed by a couple wasted hours at the police station, and even when arrested and charged with crimes. This practice became so widely diffused as to become automatic, and was so widely shared that it discouraged many a cop from even bothering to ask.
Whether they actively participated or not, those arrested during moments of physical conflict with the police went to trial, mostly for “violence against an officer”, “participating in a group after an order to disperse”, for “refusing to give fingerprints or DNA” and often for “carrying weapons”. The penalties inflicted in this case were mostly between 1 and 3 months of suspended prison sentence for first offenders. Those who were on the run or who had prior convictions went straight to prison, for between 2 and 5 months. Also, those arrested mostly had comparution immédiate, or immediate trials (judgements immediately following custody which don’t give time to prepare a defense). The people who refused the immediate trial (which is almost always recommended to leave open the chance of a lesser sentence) sometimes had to sign in weekly at the police station for several months before their trial. All those convicted of violence against the police were automatically banned from being on or near the zad, and often from the entire region. Some farming comrades also got heavy fines or suspended prison sentences for refusing to obey or for using a weapon against the forces of order, the weapon in more than one case being a tractor. There were many trials for refusing to give DNA and/or fingerprints.
In all, 45 people active in this struggle went to trials in Nantes or St. Nazaire between October 2012 and June 2013. 5 comrades were acquitted, and 3 others had their charges dropped because of procedural mistakes. Since the beginning of the year, the number of trials linked to solidarity with this struggle but happening elsewhere, has not stopped growing. More than twenty people have been arrested (Paris, Aveyron, Bretagne). Even subpoenas to the police station following actions that happened months earlier (mostly free peage actions, where the barriers on VINCI owned toll roads are physically opened and people pass for free but can donate to the resistance) keep on growing. Many people have not gone when subpoenaed and so far have faced no consequences. We can thus consider that at least for free peage actions, they are trying to put pressure on a few people they’ve identified, and try to keep in check this tactic which is being widely diffused, without VINCI or the authorities daring to go further in this context. We can consider this situation a benefit of a large movement and a rapport de force that is consequent enough to sometimes weaken repressive inclinations. However, it’s possible that there will be more subpoenas linked to past actions, perhaps including raids at home, so be prepared.
These past months, someone who was surprised by the police while dumpster diving behind a supermarket was arrested, then imprisoned because they already had a warrant out. The same thing happened to someone arrested during a demo against les veilleurs (group born from the anti-gay marriage movement, they want a return to the old values of france- heterosexuality, nationalism, the environment, catholicism….they are anti-state because they think the government is too liberal) Two people arrested with no witnesses are still in prison and it seems that at least one of them was arrested on the ZAD.
Recently there have been many actions against repression: demos, street parties, blocking the St. Nazaire brige before a trial, gatherings and noise-demo/picnics in front of the courthouse and having a presence during trials. Two or 3 wild demos (with no path or permit or leader, people decide in the moment where they should go) have finished in front of the prison with the intention of being able to speak to those inside, and one night the tractors kept watch outside the police station. A campaign against systematic DNA sampling has been started. Money has been donated for fines and court costs. We’ll need more (for all checks and donations, send them to the association “Vivre sans aeroport”: la primaudière 44130 Notre dame des Landes). The support of all those facing trial for the struggle is primordial for any movement that wants to be around for the long haul and not leave anyone behind. Especially because we can only expect it to be worse if they come back in force. There is still much to do to reinforce this aspect between now and then and create the collective trust necessary to face them.
So as a semblance of a conclusion, bravo, thanks, and a shoutout to all who made solidarity actions, who came by to visit, who were inspired by what happened on the zad to wage other struggles which have in turn inspired us. We wouldn’t be here if not for you. We count on you to take up this struggle with us in this year which will doubtless be a turning point, and we hope that the dynamics found here continue to swarm elsewhere. We hope to meet you on Saturday January 18th for the meeting of local committees.
See you soon.
Some people who live on the zad.