Estimated 20,000 protesters from across France demonstrate massive opposition to proposed Nantes airport

Organisers of the massive peaceful protest on the 9th January, against the proposed new Nantes airport at Notre-Dame-des-Landes estimated there were 20,000 people at the demonstration. The aim was to show the massive opposition there is to the airport, and especially to the forced eviction of the 11 families and 4 farmers from land on the planned construction site. At the protest, traffic was halted on the Nantes ring road, using dozens of tractors and blocking access to the city’s airport, Nantes Atlantique. Protesters say that the €580 million project is not necessary,will be detrimental to the environment and is a wasteful use of government funds.The battle against this development has been going on for 15 years, and has become a focal issue across France, against unnecessary high carbon projects that damage the environment or uproot people. There are over 100 support committees in places across France. The airport would require the loss of valuable marshy habitat, home to important wildlife, and good agricultural land.  Some agricultural organizations threatened to maintain an indefinite blockade of one of the main river crossings, the Chevire Bridge over the Loire.  Clashes between protesters and the authorities in 2012 resulted in a temporary halt to construction. The last major protest resulted in clashes with police in February 2014. There was a legal hearing in Nantes about the evictions on Tuesday 13th January – with again a huge crowd outside – the outcome is expected to be known on 25th January.


20,000 protest forceful evictions, block roads at Nantes airport construction site

People attend a demonstration in Nantes against the construction of a new airport in Notre-Dame-des-Landes

January 9, 2016

By Stephane Mahe (Reuters)

Nantes bikes on the peripherique 9.1.2016
In a massive protest against controversial airport construction outside the western French city of Nantes, up to 20,000 demonstrators blocked roads, demanding the reversal of the city’s plan to build a new airport at Notre-Dame-des-Landes, by forcefully evicting local people and farmers living there.

Halting traffic on the Nantes ring road using dozens of tractors and blocking access to the city’s international airport, Nantes Atlantique, protesters rallied against legal proceedings to evict 11 families and four farmers from the planned construction site.

Nantes bridge packed 9.1.2016

Protesters say that the €580 million project, which has divided government officials, citizens and activists for over 15 years, will be detrimental to the environment and is a wasteful use of government funds.

Nantes marching along 9.1.2016

Some agricultural organizations that gathered as part of the 20,000-strong crowd (according to organizers, whereas police estimate the number to have been 7,200) threatened to maintain an indefinite blockade of one of the main river crossings, the Chevire Bridge over the Loire.

Nantes the crowd near the Chevire bridge 9.1.2016

In July, Paris announced that construction would resume at the highly controversial airport Notre-Dame-des-Landes after a series of clashes between the locals and the authorities in 2012 resulted in a temporary halt to construction.

Nantes tractors 9.1.2016

Overall protesters have been battling for 15 years to save the 1,650 hectares (4,000 acres) of protected swampland outside the city, which is to be the site of the new airport.

Approved in 2008, the new airport is scheduled for opening next year (construction has not yet even started) and will replace the current Nantes Atlantique Airport that handles three million annual passengers. Developers (Vinci)say the new air hub will provide a major boost to the tourism economy in western France.

Saturday’s demonstration was the biggest gathering in two years. The last major protest over the issue took resulted in clashes with police in February 2014. Saturday’s blockade however proceeded peacefully. Notre-Dame-des-Landes


Nantes: Thousands March Against Proposed Airport at Notre-Dame-des-Landes


The depart of the protesr against the airport at Notre-Dame-des-Landes

“The peasant mobilization is to go beyond expectations,” said an organizer …

The protest against the airport project of Notre-Dame-des-Landes was full on Saturday. According to organizers, it attracted 20,000 people Saturday on the ring road around Nantes, although police are estimating a figure of 7,200 demonstrators.


Traffic disrupted on the Ring Road

Traffic was disrupted on the ring road but also the access to the nearby airport of Nantes Atlantique. The demonstration was not to enter the city centre, a “deliberate choice” of the organizers to avoid the recurrence of violence in 2014. The organizers have planned to call to the dispersion from 3.30pm, while rain is expected on region.

Behind a banner “Neither deportation or trial,” protesters converged at the sound of the drum to the  Cheviré bridge, an imposing work, windswept, which spans the Loire River downstream from the city centre.  Among the crowd, protesters of all ages, most with big jackets, shoes and woollen caps, and for a hike on highway. Protesters waved flags and placards that read “No to deportation, yes to the peasants” or “Neither expulsion or trial.”

Arm wrestling for 15 years

Wednesday, Aéroports du Grand Ouest (AGO), a subsidiary of the Vinci Group and the future airport concessionaire intends to apply to the High Court of Nantes immediate eviction of 11 families and four farmers, coupled with a daily fine of 200 to 1,000 euros and a sequestration of their property and livestock if they do not comply.

This new mobilization of opponents at the airport for 15 years engaged in a legal tussle in addition to an occupation on the ground, made more than two months after the announcement, on October 30, a stimulus “for 2016 “of the project, after approval by the Nantes Administrative Court of prefectural orders authorizing the start of construction.

As for the supporters of the project, the association “Des Ailes pour l’Ouest” argues that unlike the fifteen occupants facing eviction, 260 other residents have accepted the compensation procedures. “This state of emergency in full manifestation is a real provocation of people who reject the democratic decisions and judgments,” accuses Alain Mustière in a statement, the president of the association.

“The peasant mobilization is to go beyond expectations,” commented Julien Durand, spokesman for the ACIPA, the main opponents of association of Nantes airport project. “Today it is for Francois Hollande today to acknowledge the extraordinary mobilization in Nantes (…). We need the process (judicial) evictions to stop before Wednesday “when a hearing is scheduled in Nantes calling for the expulsion of fifteen inhabitants of the site planned for the project.

The mobilization is in any case the strongest since the demonstration on February 22, 2014, when at least 20,000 people gathered in the city centre of Nantes. But unlike the rally which had resulted in damage and clashes with security forces, Saturday’s demonstration took place in a friendly atmosphere, with “a large banquet” organized along mid-way along the ring road, usually reserved for vehicles.


A thousand opponents of new Notre-Dame-des-Landes airport protest outside evictions court hearing

Backers of proposed airport at Nantes want the eviction of farmers from the site. More than 1,000 protesters gathered outside the court in Nantes where the hearing – that could evict the last 11 families living on the proposed airport – was heard. Aéroport du Grand Ouest (AGO), a subsidiary of Vinci Airports, is requesting crippling fines of up to €1,000 per person per day against farmers who are refusing to move, as well as the seizure of farm properties and animals. Around 300 environmental protesters are currently camped out around the site in a long-standing protest that last weekend mobilised 20,000 people for “Operation Escargot”, an action blocking traffic on regional roads, including the Loire bridge. One Nantes resident facing expulsion, Sylvain Fresnau, a 54-year-old farmer with three children, said he did not believe that evictions would be possible due to the strength of local feeling. He said: “We don’t need another airport in Nantes. We already have 145 airports in this country”. Conservation lawyers say the new court action violates a commitment made by President François Hollande that there would be no more evictions until legal avenues had been fully exhausted. He has not kept his promise, and the case has become symbolic for French environmentalists. The judgement in the evictions case is not expected before 25 January.

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See earlier:

Protests and mobilisations on Saturday 9th January against evictions for planned Nantes airport at NDDL

On Saturday 9th January, there will again be huge mobilisations of people against the planned new Nantes airport at Notre-Dame-des-Landes, in western France. Not only will there be gatherings at NDDL itself, and in Nantes but the many support committees in other places across France will plan mobilisations too. These included a bike convoy and a protest on foot in Paris, where people will be singing and dancing and giving out literature. The protest is because the authorities plan to carry out compulsory evictions on the 11 families and 4 farms in the ZAD (the zone à défendre), which are due to start in January. They are in the area where Vinci, the company planning to build the airport, want to start work. There is to be a court hearing on 13th January to request their removal, with a fine of € 200 to € 1,000 / day / person and the seizure and sequestration of property and farm animals. People who are passionate that the airport should not be built are not prepared to see these evictions. The government had agreed they would not happen until all legal remedies had been fully exhausted – and they have not. The airport opponents believe it would make better environmental and economic sense to improve the existing Nantes airport, rather than ruin valuable natural habitats and destroy productive farmland. They want a proper independent study done.

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Open letter by ACIPA to François Hollande asking for forced evictions at NDDL to be stopped

At Notre-Dame-des-Landes (NDDL), where a new airport for Nantes is planned, there are due to be forced evictions of those who remain on the land, after a tribunal hearing on 10th December. At the moment 11 families and four farms located in the area of the airport wants to build. The protest group at NDDL have now written to the President of the Republic François Hollande, to ask him to prevent these expulsions. The expulsion order is by AGO (Aéroports du Grand Ouest, a subsidiary of Vinci) on behalf of the state. ACIPA says that therefore, the responsibility lies with the President. There was a month long hunger strike in May 2012, and to end that, an assurance was given that there would not be evictions. That was updated in 2014. ACIPA say the families believed the assurances by government, and they have therefore not made arrangements to leave. The families and the farmers face all their property and livestock being put into receivership if they will not leave. The government made successive promises that all legal remedies would be pursued to exhaustion, and appeals are still pending. ACIPA asks how the President will keep the trust of potential voters, if he does not keep his word. ACIPA want a meeting with the President, the waiving of expulsion orders, and a proper investigation into options to improve the existing Nantes airport

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and other news about the proposed new Nantes airport at Notre-Dame-des-Landes