Following the announcement by French prime minister Edouard Philippe that the ‘illegal occupants’ will be evicted at the end of March, for four weeks now ZAD has seen a large police presence, with about 200 gendarmerie mobilised daily in the area. Their mission: to control the entrances, and to engage in a number of harassment operations, all under the pretext of providing security for the workers clearing the area and working on the local road.
Verbal commitments made to occupants by the local government prior to undertaking work in the area were not respected. The workers went way closer to the ZAD site than agreed, and several field entrances have been removed. That despite of significant effort from ZAD community to make space for the work agreed with them, with two shacks dismantled and a third displaced.
There is a huge surveillance operation under way. The community is being constantly recorded by cops, with helicopter, a drone, telescopic camera and listening device. The police had visited some parts of the site while their occupants weren’t present.
The prime minister declared that ZAD will be evicted willingly or by force. Despite of that, very few occupants left the area after the government announced that it will abandon the airport project. Most intend to stay and want to defend the community they have created over the years. However, the local prefect announced that only those who have a solid agricultural project and pay their taxes can stay, and the rest will be evicted.
This didn’t go down well with the community. One of the spokespersons for ZAD said that ‘it is out of the question (…), it does not make sense. We did not fight during all these years to, in the end, take a status of farmer who destroys the earth, contrary to what we have been always advocating’.
The occupants, after collective discussions, do want the work which was agreed to continue. There is however a demand for transparency around it. They are also concerned about the impact of planned work on the environment, and demand that to be an issue for collective approval. Another of ZAD’s demands is that the road be suitable for all, including nearby residents, and for this purpose be limited in speed to 50km/ h with sections at 30km/h and speed bumps. And it is required that the requests of environmentalists be taken into account.
ZAD residents strongly demand that the police presence cease. They see this issue as the state using the ongoing works as a pretext to harass them. They consider that bringing the police few weeks before possible eviction, and during negotiations, is a provocation. It will also increase tensions in the area and will allow the government one more reason to evict the site. If the request for withdrawal of the police is not heard, ZAD declares to organize in order to ensure that they leave.
Source: ZAD website
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