ZAD Gathers to Rebuild as More Police Attacks Loom

Notre-Dam-Des-Landes (NDDL), France – Barricades continue to go up around the ZAD-NDDL as the French state announced an end to eviction operations and attempts a new hand at negotiating agreements with the self-organized autonomous territory. We spoke with ‘Camille’, a Zadiste inside the ZAD-NDDL, for the second time in the last three days to get the latest information on the police’s eviction attempt which started early on Sunday, April 8th, 2018. The ZAD-NDDL (Zone À Défendre Notre-Dam-Des-Landes), near Nantes, France, is a 4,000 acre territory on land where an airport project, opposed for decades, was cancelled just months ago and has been occupied since 2008.

In a police deployment said to be France’s largest domestic operation since May 1968, 2,500 police backed by armored personnel carriers and helicopters remain in the area. The police now hold a large section of the southeast territory and are attempting to “restore law and order” by keeping the roads clear of barricades. This has been a constant struggle for the police, as Camille told us new barricades are continually being erected.

There are barricades popping up everywhere. France being the country which has the great art of the barricade, there are some pretty extraordinary looking barricades.” – Camille

The days are blurry“, said Camille, “our memories are being pounded by concussion grenades and tear gas.”

Hear our first conversation with Camille here: A Report From the Frontlines of the ZAD-NDDL Eviction Attempt and 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.

After the third day of intense clashes, the police said that they had finished their eviction operation, leaving about 29 squats (dwellings) in ruins and over 80 Zadistes injured. (Two dozen police have reportedly been injured as well.) The number of injured Zadistes has since doubled in the last 48 hours. The police, dressed from head to toe in riot gear, are expected to stay at least a month.

As Camille spoke, they said that they could hear the rumbles of police helicopters, frogs mating in the wetlands of the ZAD, and generators running from farmhouses where police have cut the electricity off. They have “cut the electricity off for a large amount of the zone, places where there was a brewery, a pasta making place, a bakery, the concert hall, one of the big kitchens, and also homes of people around. That hasn’t gone down too well. And they said that they would cut the electricity off for at least a month as well.

Camille left off where we last spoke with them and updated us as to what has happened in the last 48 hours inside the ZAD-NDDL and how the government had announced an end to their eviction operation.

“The last two days have been extraordinary. The last time we spoke we were being gassed at a picnic and then the prefect, the head of the state on the local level, Nicole Klein, basically made a press conference following President Macron’s statement on telly, where he had a big interview on the main TV channel, where basically he said that everything that was going to be evicted has been evicted.

Camille said that after hearing news of the operation ceasing, some of the Zadistes had a little party and then “went to bed with a certain sense of victory” around 2 a.m. thinking that they were going to be able to sleep in. That, however, was not to be the case, as two hours later Camille was woken up by the rumbling of “hundreds and hundreds of riot police passing by” one of the main roads that goes through the ZAD-NDDL.

A massive show of police then lined the road, barricades were lit on fire and “then it kicks off over again and everyone was pretty surprised, you know, that was what she called the end of operations, that’s pretty extraordinary“, said Camille, as some of the reinforced barricades had to be taken down with armored personnel carriers.

Camille said “they fought in the forest very, very hard. It was super dangerous. They were throwing concussion grenades from the fields into the forest. You couldn’t see anything. You couldn’t see where they were landing, they were landing all over the place. We’ve now got 150 injuries.

Camille said that the “people felt betrayed” by the police aggression that took place at the same time French government officials were announcing the supposed end of operations against the ZAD.

On Friday, April 13th, as tear gas was being deployed, state official Nicole Klein was in a press conference showcasing a new and simplified form to fill out for specific agricultural projects to gain access to the land.

Camille said that the language Klein used seemed to indicate that she may be more open to the collective nature of the ZAD’s agreements, which opposed individualized ownership of land. The date of deadline for the new forms is April 23, 2018.

The prefect has stated that they are accepting the new forms on Monday morning. So with this deadline and negotiation period, Camille said an assembly had started in the zone, “with all the different composers of the movement to try and decide if we were going to go into negotiations or not.

This ongoing discussion is a debate that could split the movement as disagreements emerge. “Some people are saying absolutely not, they’ve been attacking us all week, why the hell should we go to any negotiations” while others are pushing the idea of negotiating getting the police to leave, said Camille.

It’s going to be a very very long and very very difficult and very important assembly and I haven’t seen the end of it and we will see what comes out of it.

We’re not against putting our names on things … to get squatters rights you have to put your name on things … putting the names isn’t the problem for us, for us the problem is the individualism that’s being pushed that you have to sign these individual contracts.” Camille said that they feel the state is vengeful and trying to show that the Zadistes can’t control the commons.

The airport was cancelled despite 178 legal losses” said Camille, who spoke about losing every time in the courts in the last ten years and also losing the referendum. Yet, among the loses, Camille said the Zadistes have won every time and have continued to push the police off their land and collectively run their day-to-day life on the land they manage as a commons.

We need to run this as a commons, we need to run this together, we’re not gonna enter into the sadness of individual private property.

Camille said it would be difficult for the state to completely evict and control all of the territory on the ZAD-NDDL, “because it’s so huge” and “it’s perfect guerilla territory, it’s covered in hedge roads and it’s very hard for them to work here. It’s very muddy, they get stuck.” Yesterday, “one of their armored personnel carrier’s fell into a ditch” said Camille, which they stated “was a great joy” to them.

During the morning of Saturday, April 14th, Zadistes were woken up by the sound of a helicopter and then the police attacked the roads, coming through “like a high speed train with their tanks” clearing the barricades. But, as Camille told us, “of course the barricades returned like mushrooms“.

Heavy fighting continued through the morning and the police are now using a new chemical gas weapon on the Zadistes, which Camille said “makes you very very sick.

Roads are blocked leading into the ZAD-NDDL: “all accesses to the zone are shut. You can’t get into the zone by car“, so Camille says they use the fields, through which they know the ways in and out.

The other beauty about this rural rebellion is that it’s pretty impossible to cut off 4,000 acres.

Camille spoke of the beauty of the ongoing struggle, of how Zadistes are making decisions in the moment and breaking through the “pureness” of ideology to a more ‘free’ sense of living. “People of every age, young, old, all kind of backgrounds. That again, is the beauty of the struggle. We’ve gone beyond the kind of pureness, the kind of anarchic pureness, which wants to kind of keep a kind of pure ideology without paradox and here we said, ‘no, we have to open up’ and that means actually contradictions, that means paradoxes. That means not having an ideology that is abstract but actually inhabiting now, in the moment.

Literally you have grandmas standing next to masked-up, shielded, barricade warriors and only with both of those can you win.

Camille told us that “Tomorrow [Sunday, April 15th, 2018] is the big day where people have been invited to come back to rebuild.”

After the destruction of dozens of squats by the police, the plan is to gather on the territory and rebuild.

It shows really how the struggle is so much about resistance and creation. And about proposing other worlds, other forms of life, and resisting and blocking the present one.

Camille spoke about rebuilding the Gourbi, the geodesic dome that served as a meeting place, which had been destroyed twice by police and once by fascists (during the COP21).

Thousands of people are expected to converge on the ZAD-NDDL for the rebuilding day. The government has stated that the police that are now stationed there will stay and that they will not allow rebuilding to happen.

So, it’s likely to be a hot day tomorrow.

During the rebuilding day for the 2012 eviction attempt, police cleared the area and about 40,000 people showed up, and rebuilding happened despite government forces intent on stopping it.

Journalists hoping to document the happenings will have to continue to be cautious, as evidence has emerged of police deliberately targeting reporters.

Camille said the spark of resistance is spreading throughout France, pointing again, as they did in our last interview, to ongoing workplace strikes and militant university occupations.

Protests on Saturday in solidarity with the ZAD-NDDL in Nantes, France were squashed by a heavy police presence using water cannons and tear gas.

We will continue to follow the police operations in the ZAD-NDDL. For more information, check out our report on the eviction attempt here, and listen to our first interview with Camille below.

For further information on 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.

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