Activists clashed with police for a sixth day in western France. Law enforcement officials used tear gas and water cannons against crowds protesting the demolition of their 'eco-camp' on the site of an abandoned airport.
Saturday's demonstration drew nearly 7,000 people in support of occupants of the ZAD (French abbreviation for Zone to Defend) anarchist commune, France 24 reported.
The rally erupted into open confrontation after the protesters, holding banners reading Stop violence, attempted to storm barricades erected by law enforcement officials. Riot police fired tear gas in response to rocks and stun grenades being thrown at them. The windows of several shops were smashed and trash bins were set on fire.
Twelve protesters were arrested and nine police officers wounded, Interior Minister Gérard Collomb said in a statement, denouncing what he described as “unspeakable violence.”
According to a medical team set up at the activists camp, “since the beginning of the week, at least 148 people have been taken care of,” including those who suffered injuries from stun grenades or developed neurological disorders (vertigo, headaches).
Around 2,500 enforcement officials were mobilized for evictions in Notre-Dame-des-Landes, 20km from Nantes, on Monday. Up to several hundred activists occupied the 1,650-hectare site, once reserved for a proposed airport, calling it their Zone a Defendre. Environmental activists have actively protested against the construction of the airport in Notre-Dame-des-Landes since 2008.
Throughout the week, Molotov cocktails and stun grenades were hurled through clouds of tear gas as Zadists clashed with police. RTs Charlotte Dubenskij and a Ruptly crew were caught up in the action during a standoff between police and eco-squatters on Monday. Dubenskij said at times it felt like the “sky was raining tear gas.”