A protester reacts in front of gendarmerie officers, on April 13, 2018 at a site, known as ZAD (Zone to defend) in Notre-Dame-des-Landes, western France. (Photo by AFP)
French police have pointed the finger of blame at “ultra-leftists” as clashes with protesters over plans to convert a site in western France into a new airport entered a fifth day.
French riot police clashed with protesters on Friday as forces embarked on an operation to clear squatters from the site in Notre-Dame-Des-Landes region, near the city of Nantes in western France, and demolish their makeshift shelters housing eco-activists and anarchists.
The site had been earmarked for a new airport nearly 50 years ago before the French government finally dropped plans to build the controversial hub in January. The protesting squatters demanded the right to stay after creating what they called an “autonomous utopia.”
Protesters stand near a barricade with signs reading “Demotion: already 1 million euro, reconstruction: free price” on April 13, 2018 at a site, known as ZAD (Zone to defend) in Notre-Dame-des-Landes, western France. (Photo by AFP)
Reports said dozens of people had been injured and several arrested during the Friday skirmishes.
The head of the national gendarmerie, Richard Lizurey, said scores of troublemakers had arrived in recent days and that the move had prompted an increase in the number of police forces from 150 at the outset to about 700.
“These are ultra-leftists who’ve come here for nothing other than a fight,” Lizurey told the French media. “We will stay here as long as we have to.”
Lizurey added that 10 police officers had been ambushed during the unrest on Thursday.
Gendarmerie officers walk through the ZAD (Zone a Defendre – Zone to defend) in Notre-Dame-des-Landes, western France, on April 13, 2018. (Photo by AFP)
French police say they have also come under fire by jars of excrement flung from catapults.
In Paris, police were called in to evict 200 protesters who had occupied part of the Sorbonne university overnight.
Opponents of the airport plan said it was too costly, environmentally damaging and, that there was another under-utilized airport 110 kilometers to the north of the proposed site near Rennes in the Brittany region.