Deadline Days Away in the ZAD After Weekend of Defiant Rebuilding

Notre-Dam-Des-Landes (NDDL), France – As the deadline of April 23 looms with a threat of full ZAD-NDDL eviction by the police, Zadistes have submitted about forty agricultural and artisan projects to the French authorities. Two weeks after the start of the massive eviction attempt of the ZAD-NDDL (Zone À Défendre Notre-Dam-Des-Landes), we spoke with Camille, a Zadiste living in the zone, who told us about the rebuilding day with tens of thousands of people, the negotiations, and more. The ZAD-NDDL is an autonomous collective society created in 2008 during the resistance to a now-abandoned airport project. We also spoke with Camille two previous times for updates from eviction attempts made against the ZAD: you can read/listen here and here.

Injuries are now in the hundreds, as the massive, 2,500 strong, French state police forces have used over 11,000 grenades (both tear gas and concussion grenades) in their attempts to evict the zone. The Zadistes have fought back with rocks, bottles, molotovs, mud, and more. 29 squats, or shelters, have been destroyed by the police forces who have taken about 30% of the territory that the Zadistes held for years. For weeks now, a cycle has continued in which Zadistes erect new barricades and armored police vehicles destroy the barricades, only to see new blockades erected the next day.

Hear our first two conversations with Camille here: A Report From the Frontlines of the ZAD-NDDL Eviction Attempt (April 12) and ZAD Gathers to Rebuild as More Police Attacks Loom (April 15). Check out context from the eviction: ZAD Battles Thousands of Police During Attempted Eviction of Autonomous Zone in France, and further information on ZAD-NDDL: Networks of Resistance Pt. 1 – ZAD, Bure, Hambach Forest.

Speaking directly from the zone again, Camille said that this fight is bigger than the airport and the state’s unwillingness to negotiate collective agreements compared to individual agreements has shown that “it’s a deep theological fight between capitalism and the commons.

Camille said that still, “Every morning there are concussion grenades thrown and a bit of gas but it’s nothing like the first three/four days” of the eviction attempt. Camille gave us a detailed update from the past weekend of activities in the ZAD-NDDL.

We called for a big mobilization [last weekend] … as a show of force to show that there are still tens of thousands of people prepared to defend the ZAD and it was a pretty extraordinary day.” – Camille

The planned rebuilding day of April 15 became a bit complicated as thousands of people sought to get into the zone. Police forces completely surrounded the ZAD with roadblocks and checkpoints and blockaded the zones they evicted the week before, effectively “kettling off the whole area that we wanted to rebuild“, said Camille.

So, people had to basically come through the fields, leave their cars outside and find ways in.” Camille said they didn’t know what they were going to do. “About 10,000 people showed up and we said, ‘look, have your picnic and we will have an assembly of the occupiers and the peasants and so on, and we’ll try and decide what to do.

Camille said then, that about 100 or so people went into the field to discuss “what the fuck we were going to do now that the police had completely blockaded the zone and cut all the areas off, especially the Gourbi.

In the days leading up to the weekend, carpenters had built timber frames for a “meeting house and market hall for the ‘no market’” to replace the dome destroyed at the Gourbi last week by police forces. The Gourbi (Foxhole), a “quite symbolic site” with lots of recent history sits right in the middle of the zone, said Camille.

For two days non-stop, twenty carpenters had been building under the Barn of the Future, which is an extraordinary cathedral type barn.

In 2012, this site is where an elderly couple were displaced and their farmhouse destroyed during the French state’s 2012 eviction attempt. After the destruction of the farmhouse, a hut replaced it which needed to be repaired and then the “state-of-the-art cabin” which housed the “assemblies of the ZAD” that was built in its place was “set alight” during the COP21 “probably by a fascist“, said Camille.

The Gourbi was then rebuilt by hundreds of people in 2016 into a geodesic adobe dome using “earth from the zone and metal, so that it couldn’t be set alight.

Sadly, that wasn’t strong enough for the bulldozer and the bulldozer destroyed it immediately [last week].

The assembly that met in the field that discussed how to go about their day of rebuilding, with the police presence so thick, they ultimately decided to “carry the barn by hand across the zone to as near the police line as possible,” said Camille.

So the idea was that we would take something back symbolically to that zone.

They chose not to attempt to go all the way to the Gourbi, because the police had it blocked off and as Camille said, “that would mean gassing everyone who has come and there were many many families and elderly people who had come.

The other decision they made in their assembly “was to pull up the sticks at Bellevue, this farm where the mobilization began from“, said Camille, who continued that the sticks were placed in the ground in 2016 by people “as a pledge that people would come back and take the sticks if there was an eviction of the ZAD” during a “call out” event as the threat of eviction loomed.

40,000 people came to that event in October 2016 and planted 20,000 sticks in the ground, it was a ritual disguised as a kind of demonstration and it was very powerful, and actually the government never came, it’s great proof that ritual and magic work very, very well in activism.

So the people “took back their sticks” in the afternoon on Sunday and “come with the barn frame, with their sticks and placed their sticks in a giant circular palisade around the new site of the barn, which happened, and it was an extraordinary moment seeing hundreds of people carrying massive oak barn frames made from the trees of Rohanne, it was really beautiful!“, said Camille.

Camille continued that as the barn started to be built at that site, people had approached a police line near one of the fields, and “of course the police began to gas and attack people there even though there was incredible discipline; all the barricaders and all the black bloc kids, basically no-one, [messed] with the police that day because they knew there was so many families.

A tweet thread featuring a person’s journey from Vigneux to the ZAD to take part in the rebuilding, shows the police roadblocks and surveillance they had to endure to get to the ZAD-NDDL, as well as the atmosphere and experience of those participating in the rebuilding.

At 8 o’clock that night, “suddenly, the police left“, so they decided to move the barn, Camille said, who furthered that it was an act of “heroic magic“, as “about a hundred people picked up this incredibly heavy barn and moved it across three kilometers of muddy wetlands, through the night, as the night was falling. We picked it up just as the sun was going down and we arrived there a few hours later, three kilometers through hedge roads, I mean, it was extraordinary seeing this walking barn crossing the [groves] and arriving at Gourbi. It arrived at Gourbi and fireworks were set off, flares were lit, a huge bonfire took place, and we celebrated the kind of audacity of that move.

This celebration was short-lived, as Camille said, “of course the next morning the police arrive en masse“, “gassed everyone around” and “with chainsaws destroyed the building” and used their chainsaws to cut out newly crafted wooden carvings and took them away like they were “trophies, which was kind of sickening. So they destroyed the Gourbi, we knew they would do that, and then they left again.

Camille spoke of daily fighting over the barricades that quickly get rebuilt after being rammed down by police forces. The Zadistes have barricaded only the east and the west of the zone and have mostly left certain main roads clear in attempts to ease the road flow for the locals and medics.

A few days ago Nicolas Hulot, the Minister of Ecology, came to the region, so, Camille said, “we had to decide whether to go back to negotiations which were the decisions made with great difficulty in the Assembly of Usages which takes place under the Barn of the Future.

The Zadistes chose to enter negotiations. Hulot, the Minister of Ecology, met with “various elected representatives of the territories around Notre-Dame-des-Landes, various agricultural organizations, the Chamber of Agriculture, and another with the delegation of the opponents of the airport project” and kept the deadline of April 23. Below is a English translation of a rundown of the meetings in the French Reporterre.

“The Minister of the Ecological and Solidarity Transition said that the deadline of April 23 for filing simplified forms was maintained. The genesis of this long-standing struggle was the preservation of farmland, wetlands and biodiversity. Except to be wrong, I think this fight has been achieved. The feeling that I have – I say it with caution – is that at some point you have to stop a fight that you think you’ve won He said, calling for “a spiral of postures and violence, do not confuse ecology and anarchy Finally, he praised the detention of the gendarmes, who did not seek contact, neglecting the extreme violence of law enforcement over the last ten days.”Zad de Notre-Dame-des-Landes : le gouvernement et M. Hulot restent intransigeants

Camille stated that last Sunday, as the barn was about to be taken to the Gourbi, French President Macron said on national television that the deadline was firmly set for April 23 “to sign these individual land contracts and that any global collective land project was out of the question and that if we didn’t sign with these individual name contracts that they would come and destroy the whole of the ZAD-NDDL. They would expand operations and destroy the whole of the ZAD and evict the whole of the ZAD after the 23rd of April.

Hulot ended his statement saying “we mustn’t get anarchy and ecology mixed up“, this to Camille, shows,

in and where the state doesn’t understand anything because as anyone who knows, who inherits a territory or who knows how forms of life work, who has any sensibility to the world knows very well that actually, life forms, ecology, have no leaders. They have no chiefs or bosses. They are a deep interconnected network of life and actually there is no difference between anarchy and ecology.

Tension is building around the ZAD-NDDL as the deadline looms near. Camille said, “Everyone is in meetings right now trying to think ‘well what are we going to do?’ ‘Do we compromise?’ ‘Do we find some trick?’ Or ‘do we go for the last battle?’ And we know dam well that, in a way, the last battle could be super, super, super, scary and we have little chance of winning it on the terrain. So, it’s kind of another moment of tension.

About forty agreements have been turned in to the prefect, but as Christophe Jaunet reports, “The 40 cards are registered but the projects are linked collectively because they represent the soul of the Zad, we refuse any sorting“.

Jaunet also reported that “Among the 40 projects deposited in prefecture by the Zadistes, are 28 agricultural projects but also the library, the brewery, the bakery, the radio, the Forge: all these activities are interdependent. We want a joint review and not a tri, everything is connected.

Of these projects turned in, it’s said that the prefect Nicole Klein has stated that 3 of 28 projects pose a problem while 7 of the 28 agricultural projects depositedappear without problem, 18 not far from the culmination“.

We’ve always found ways out of these crisis moments, the ZAD has an incredible, creative, strategic spirit and even though, you know, it doesn’t feel possible in the moment to find that kind of transversal way through, I think we’ll find something. We have to believe that we’ll find something. We can’t believe that we’re going to lose everything here … There are a minority that say, ‘I’d rather lose everything and be a martyr’. Personally, I don’t think it’s worth it. I think the things that we’ve built here; the relationships we have with the land, the species, each other, they’re so powerful and if it ends, it’s just split … do we compromise to keep that or do we risk everything losing it.” – Camille

Camille spoke of the uniqueness of the ZAD and the struggle of resistance in France in general. Camille said this last weekend “you had literally families and pensioners … middle class people … and workers supporting black bloc kids who had been rioting, for like a week, throwing molotovs. I mean, it’s incredible. It shows that we’ve, through the ZAD, created this kind of culture of resistance of people really supporting militant forms of struggle.

Camille continued that “militant forms of struggle have also opened up themselves to say that, you know, knowing that it’s not the only way” and that the fight against the airport was won with a wide diversity of tactics.

In an action in front of a French government building in Nantes, hundreds of spent teargas grenades, only a portion of the thousands used by the police on Zadistes in ZAD-NDDL, were delivered to the steps of the building.

In further news, a report last week came out saying that everyday of the police operation in the ZAD-NDDL, which started on April 8, is costing an estimated 300,000€ to 400,000€ a day.

Also, a 21-year-old Belgian has already been convicted and sentenced to eight months in detention for the alleged crime of emptying a fire extinguisher on French police in clashes at the barricades in the zone.

We will continue to provide updates from the French state’s eviction attempt of the ZAD-NDDL. See our past reporting below.

Unicorn Riot reporting on the French land defense struggle ZAD-NDDL:

Cover image via @ZAD_NDDL.

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