Violent clashes, tear gas and injuries in a protest by environmentalists in France

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After two weeks of trade union demonstrations against pension reform in France, this time it was radical environmentalists and black-clad, face-covered Black Blocs from Germany, Belgium and Italy who confronted the gendarmerie in the department of Sainte -Soline, in Deux Sevres.

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Looking for denounce the project of huge dams of water to enable farmers to feed their crops amid drought. At least 25,000 people have arrived at the site since Friday.

But the march, in the middle of the field, ended on Saturday afternoon at a pitched battle between protesters and gendarmes. There are at least 2 demonstrators in a state of “absolute emergency”, with head injuries and encephalocranial trauma, and a gendarme in very serious condition.

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Among the 31 wounded were a photographer and 16 gendarmes. Some were flown by helicopter to the nearest hospital due to the severity of their injuries.

Iron balls, axes, knives and gas canisters were confiscated from the demonstrators.

More than 3,000 police mobilized on one side and 1,500 identified “violent activists” on the other, according to the interior ministry. The new demonstration against the mega-reservoirs, a symbol of the tensions around access to water, began this Saturday in mid-morning in Deux-Sèvres, 395 kilometers from Paris, while many opponents had converged in the area since the day before.

Opponents rallied around Sainte-Soline, where one such dam dedicated to agricultural irrigation is under construction, five months after a previous protest marred by clashes. About 60 gendarmes and policemen were injured.

Protests by environmental groups against a dam project in the French countryside ended in heavy clashes on Saturday.  Photo: REUTERS

Protests by environmental groups against a dam project in the French countryside ended in heavy clashes on Saturday. Photo: REUTERS

According to the prefecture, at noon “at least” 6,000 people were already on site, 25,000 according to the “Bassines non merci” group, co-organizer of the demonstration. More than 3,000 gendarmes and police officers were mobilized.

field warfare

The first clashes between the demonstrators and the police took place around 1 pm. As they approached the site, which resembled a medieval stronghold with its embankment surrounded by policemen, they quickly went on a rampage violent clashes with radical militants, which used “pyrotechnic mortars, Roman candles and high-capacity Molotov cocktails,” among other projectiles, according to the gendarmerie. They responded with tear gas and a water cannon.

A real theater of war in the vicinity of the reservoir. The Black Blocs were the protagonists of the clashes, which turned into battles against the forces of order.

At least two police vehicles were seen on fire, after being set on fire by protesters. Peaceful demonstrators ran across the field to take cover from the gas and mortars.

The march of environmental groups in France ended last Saturday in serious clashes.  Photo: AFP

The march of environmental groups in France ended last Saturday in serious clashes. Photo: AFP

The National Gendarmerie reported “mortar shots, Molotov cocktails and various bullets” against the police. Shortly before 2pm, he reiterated his call to avoid the area in the face of an “extremely violent crowd”.

General Bertrand Cavalier, a French police specialist, spoke of gendarmerie squads “holding off a very, very aggressive adversary, almost attacking the gendarmerie posts”.

radical environmentalists

Dozens of tractors and “thousands” of protesters, according to organizers, had arrived on Friday. Some in vehicles with hidden license plates and many hooded groups dressed in black. The gendarmerie also sent photos of hooded people.

“The extreme left and the extreme left are extremely violent against our gendarmes. Unspeakable, unbearable,” Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin reacted on Twitter.

Environmental protesters clashed with gendarmes this Saturday in Sainte-Soline, France.  Photo: AFP

Environmental protesters clashed with gendarmes this Saturday in Sainte-Soline, France. Photo: AFP

“The far left and the extreme left are trying to destabilize our institutions, thus attacking our police force. These unacceptable acts are supported by the silence of many elected officials,” the Elysée denounced.

The leader of France Insoumise, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, denounced the “police violence” against the demonstrators. “Without the BRAV-M (brigade for the repression of motorized violent action), without this circus, absolutely nothing more than a walk in the countryside would happen!”, He estimates in a tweet.

The BRAV-Ms are groups of cops who ride in pairs on a high-speed motorcycle. One drives and the other shootsfaithful to the model of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in the repression of demonstrations.

badly injured

The Ministry of the Interior, which speaks of a “very high” toll, reported 7 demonstrators injured, two of them seriously. One of them, a victim of a head injury, was classified as an “absolute emergency” by the Gendarmerie doctor. A dead person in a demonstration could ignite the already unstable and tense atmosphere in France, after weeks of demonstrations against the pension reform decreed by President Emmanuel Macron.

According to one of the organizers of the demonstration, the clashes left “several dozen seriously injured” among the demonstrators. A press photographer was also received a blow to the head.

Jordan Bardella, president of National Regrouping, Marine Le Pen’s party, denounced that “this government has lost control. How can the far-left militias, mostly from abroad, armed with explosives, with predictable intentions, converge on Sainte Soline to attack the gendarmes, peasants, journalists?

growing tension

France is under extreme tension, with daily wild displays that alter the life of the population and the life of the merchants.

President Macron wants to continue with his reform, without talking to trade unionists. He hasn’t spoken to the unions for two months.

Communist deputy Fabien Roussel said that “it is necessary for the president to step down from his throne and measure the climate of tension. The French don’t want to work until they’re 64. Final point”.

While Council of Europe alarmed by ‘excessive use of force’ of police at demonstrations in France and defend the right to demonstrate, the Paris police chief has announced he will appeal to the IGPN, which monitors police conduct, over threats made by police officers on protesters on Thursday.

In this climate, the deputies of the majority are threatened. The president of the Renaissance group in the National Assembly, Aurore Bergé, received a letter threatening her with her 4-month-old baby. A letter denounced by all political caucuses, including Marine Le Pen. They called it ignoble and intolerable.

Source: Clarin

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