French police remove eco-demonstrators from planned airport site

French police moved on Monday to evict demonstrators encamped on land at Notre-Dame-des-Landes, France, the site of abandoned plans for an airport. Police destroyed the encampment, and demonstrators threw rocks and homemade rockets in response. Photo by Eddy Lemaistre/EPA-EFE

April 9 (UPI) — About 2,500 French police forcefully evicted hundreds of environmental activists on Monday from a site near the city of Nantes where a new airport had been planned.

Earlier this year, the French government dropped 40-year-old plans to build the airport on land near Notre-Dame-des-Landes, saying it will return the land to former owners. Demonstrators, some of whom have camped illegally there for years, continued the protest to ensure the land will be used in an ecologically positive manner.

The eviction in the wooded area began early Monday, with police demolishing tents and blocking roads. Some makeshift residences were burned.

Police also used tear gas to disperse the protesters, who began throwing stones and homemade rockets in response. One police officer was injured.

Although the project is considered obsolete by President Emmanuel Macron‘s administration, a 2016 referendum organized by former President Francois Hollande showed 55 approval for the airport.

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe cited in January the “climate of bitter opposition between two sides of the population” in announcing the end of the plans.

“We will put a stop to the no-go zone which has flourished in this area for nearly 10 years,” he said.


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