Why this story matters:
Earlier this April, confrontations between the French government and activists turned violent. The protesters were occupying an area in eastern France to stop an airport from being built. Plans to build the airport were dropped, but the government sent police forces to reclaim the land.
The resulting clashes lasted four days and involved stun grenades, tear gas and Molotov cocktails. Two journalists from the Liberation newspaper were also wounded. Protesters report that about 200 people were injured.
On April 15, President Emmanuel Macron said he supported the police and was determined to see the law respected in France.
The situation in Notre-Dame-des-Landes is complex and long-drawn, and the protesters were illegally occupying the land. But it is naive of Macron to think that excessive force will bring peace to a country where social unrest is growing.
Details from the story:
- An airport construction project at Notre-Dame-des-Landes that began in the 1960s was abandoned in the 1970s but revived in 2000.
- Since then, activists and government authorities have been fighting over the land, and a group of squatters began living on the site.
- In January 2018, the French government decided to give up on the project, but asked the activists who settled on the property to leave.
- On April 9, French police forces began to dismantle the settlements, known as ZAD, an acronym for "zone to defend".
- For days, there were violent clashes between activists and the police.
- Trying to find a peaceful resolution, a delegation of ZAD met with government officials to regulate the situation.