ZAD Battles Thousands of Police During Attempted Eviction of Autonomous Zone in France

Notre-Dame-des-Landes (NDDL), France – The ZAD, or the autonomous “Zone to Defend”, is currently under siege by 2,500 riot police with armored vehicles and demolition machines. The militarized force of ‘gendarmes’ (national police who answer to liberal president Francois Macron) began their eviction operation on Sunday, April 8, 2018. The area had been slated for a highly controversial (and recently cancelled) airport project which garnered massive opposition from a diverse group of resisters, who since 2008 have been living in their own alternative society created on the ancient farmland they occupied.

Police began the eviction by telling journalists attempting to cover their attack on the ZAD not to interfere and to join a designated “press space” where they would be approved to publish certain photos and videos by authorities.

The police assault against anti-capitalists occupying the land started at 3 a.m. local time on April 8. The police attacked the ZAD-NDDL and destroyed the southern and northern barricades, entering the area. One of the watchtowers went up in flames as police advanced.

Pitched battles immediately began between police and anti-capitalist protesters across the groves and within the forests. Hundreds of black-clad Zadistes (or ZAD land defenders)  wearing gas masks fought thousands of police in total darkness throughout the night, using barricades, molotov cocktails, slingshots, and even lasers.

Police eventually pushed through flaming barricades using military-grade armored personal carriers as grenadiers fired volleys of teargas rounds into the crowd. The activists held off the police advance for hours but were eventually overcome.

On the morning of Monday, April 9, bulldozers began demolishing hundreds of tiny homes which had been built across the autonomous zone by the Zadistes, the occupiers of the ZAD-NDDL. It is currently unknown how many people have been injured or arrested. (French police killed a young man named Remi Fraisse with a grenade during ZAD-related protests in 2014, and the officer responsible was officially let off the hook earlier this year.)

Police have since set up a controlled perimeter around the area with a radius of two kilometers. In scenes reminiscent of the eviction to the #NoDAPL encampments, construction vehicles can be seen in the police video below, demolishing built shelters and watch towers.

This morning we are gripped by an emotion so profound, a rage so deep…“, a Zadiste spoke in an interview seen below, about his home of nine years being subjugated by an occupation of the police forces during their eviction attempt.

A massive autonomous city with no government, the squatters and occupiers of the ZAD-NDDL include people from all walks of life; from anarchists, anti-capitalists, and environmentalists, to biologists, educators, farmers, and a large assortment of concerned citizens and community members.

Tractors operated by farmers throughout the ZAD-NDDL have been mobilized as reinforcements to create barricades as the police forces enter deep into the autonomous zone.

Resistance to the eviction attempt continued through the day on April 9, 2018.

Occupied since 2008, the vast area of the ZAD-NDDL will take some time to evict. The last eviction attempt in 2012 was unsuccessful. Called Operation Caesar, the attempted eviction came with 1,000 paramilitary police forces and military to clear the ZAD. Intense resistance to this eviction attempt sparked riots for over a month with erected barricades and continued clashes with the police.

During a presentation on the ZAD in Greece, a frontline Zadiste said that “it was a real diversity of tactics that stopped the eviction“, as they had been organizing the resistance to any possible eviction for over a year before the police operation.

The police have nearly tripled their eviction numbers from the attempt in 2012. In an interview with French news outlet Quotidien on the morning of April 9, 2018, a Zadiste spoke about the struggle to save the ZAD while facing 2,500 gendarmes and the full force of the authorities saying that “with the means that [the gendarmes] have it’s almost impossible to hold them off indefinably“.

The realities of the struggle at the ZAD-NDDL have grown beyond just defending the land from the construction of an airport. In a April 9 report by Hervé Kempf, Kempf speaks on some of the context which threatens the social order of capitalism:

The disproportion of the means employed indicates that what is happening at the Zad threatens the neo-liberal order of which they are the brutal chants: the possibility of existing differently, of seeking cooperation rather than competition, of organizing without hierarchy between beings, to settle conflicts without police or justice, to share the common in harmony with what is called nature, to subsist soberly, to get out of the subjugation of money … Does it happen on the Zad? It can not be said. But we are really trying, and many facts show that there is a wonderful alternative, an open window in the asphyxiating wall of capitalism.” – Hervé Kempf, La Zad et la guerre civile mondiale

The eviction follows decades of protests against the construction of a new international airport on the land. In January of 2018, the French government abandoned its plans to build the €580m airport after decades of militant resistance from within the ZAD. At the time, the French government demanded all individuals immediately withdraw from the ZAD but protesters refused orders to leave.

Anti-capitalist protesters occupying the land claim the project would have increased carbon emissions and accelerated climate change. Zadistes say they are living an existence “against the airport and it’s world” and are an example of building that “DNA for social change.

Describing the recent actions by the police, a Zadiste says, “It’s a complete shock. We’ve been living here for 5 years … We built homes and a large garden for sustainability … and they told us we have 10 minutes to pack and leave. They didn’t present legal papers for our eviction so in fact the eviction is illegal. For some reason they destroyed everything we built and it’s just incredible. Flabbergasting.

Michel, the Zadiste, continued in the video above that they tried to retrieve some personal items from the house and the police said he could only get a bag and a bike and that he only had one minute.

The cops searched the bag and the house and I tried to take as much as I could but my arms are too small. It was quite shocking. Then I see 2-3 guys with bags grabbing stuff from my house and I asked them ‘Hey who are you?’ and they said ‘We’re the movers’ and then the cop was like okay you’re all done. So all I really could grab was my bike. It was really shocking. It reminded me of war situations where people are told they only have a few minutes to grab their belongings as they are evacuated by armed forces. It’s truly unbelievable.” – Zadiste speaks about being evicted at the ZAD on April 9, 2018

Thousands have participated in protests in solidarity with the ZAD on Monday across France and other countries. Simultaneously, multiple college campuses across France have also been occupied in response to the eviction.

UPDATE [4/11/18 – 1PM France]:

The Zone A Défendre (ZAD) in France continues to resist eviction by thousands of police as it enters another day. @ZAD_NDDL describes the situation as “the Gree is war. We’re surrounded.” Electricity to Pirate Radio ZAD Notre-Dame-des-Landes, which was providing live updates, has been cut. Armored vehicles are pushing past barricades into the autonomous zone. Police continue to fire hundreds of rounds of tear gas and concussion grenades toward anti-capitalist protesters who are defending the zone with molotovs and rocks. Police are destroying living structures with bulldozers as they take over land. Protesters are attempting to evacuate the wounded. According to sources with the Zone A Défendre, four cops were self-injured by grenade, including serious injury to foot. It is still unknown how many people have been wounded or arrested.

UPDATE [4/11/18 – 7PM France]:

reports 9 injuries from flash grenades, 1 serious injury to face, 16 injured to head by tear gas projectiles, 22 grenade blast injuries to throats, eyes and tendons, and at least one seriously injured evacuated. Reports of three journalists “deliberately targeted” & injured

Check out our interview with a Zadiste taken on April 12, 2018 – A Report From the Frontlines of the ZAD-NDDL Eviction Attempt. To learn more about the ZAD-NDDL and the decades old struggle against the planned airport, watch the hour long presentation by a frontline occupier at the ZAD below and check out this post, Greece: Networks of Resistance Pt. 1 – ZAD, Bure, Hambach Forest for much more information.

(French translations provided by Dr. Bibi Nuemann)

Title image credit: Collectif NDDL Pays de Lorient

Written by Andrew Neef

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