The countdown has begun: a large number of police forces are now on the ZAD of Notre-Dame-des-Landes (Loire-Atlantique), in order to expel them illegal occupants, almost three months after the abandonment of the airport project.
The operation, scheduled "next week", should last at least a week, and mobilize twenty-five squadrons mobile gendarmerie, or about 2,500 soldiers, according to a source close to the file.
On January 17, in putting an end to this fifty-year-old project, Prime Minister Philippe Philippe set an ultimatum for the occupants of the former "deferred development zone", renamed "zone to defend", their giving until the spring to regulate or leave of themselves, under penalty of being expelled.
On Sunday, the day after the end of the winter break for expulsions, this letter of formal notice has expired. And few are the "zadistes" – some 250 currently – to have left the site of 1,650 hectares or to have put themselves in situation of "legality", by declaring for example new individual agricultural projects.
The cancellation of a trip by Édouard Philippe to Mali this weekend, because of a "topical news in France" on the social front, is not foreign to this intervention, according to government sources as the executive prepares his eviction scenario.
Face to face between security forces and zadistes , on November 24, 2012, during a previous attempt to evacuate the ZAD ("Operation César") (AFP / Archives – JEAN-SEBASTIEN EVRARD)
This is the first major operation since the fall of 2012 and a massive evacuation attempt giving rise to violent clashes, called "Operation César", it had turned into a fiasco despite the deployment of more than a thousand gendarmes and policemen.
Five years and half after, the project of transfer of the Nantes airport is not any more. "One will not do again Caesar, that's for sure," warned in March the prefect of Loire-Atlantique, Nicole Klein.
She renewed Wednesday and until the evening of April 12 five prefectural orders, taken after the abandonment of the project and to contain the possible influx of "several hundred radicalized militants". In particular, they prohibit the transportation of fuel, hazardous materials and weapons items in and around the ZAD.
– "Physical Resistance and Determined" –
Rally in Nantes of former opponents of the Notre-Dame-des-Landes airport project, March 19, 2018 (AFP / Archives – LOIC VENANCE)
Since 9 April as evacuation date has been fleeing into the media Monday night, the "zadistes" have reiterated their calls to come oppose evictions on the site, to rebuild any squat destroyed but also to gather before the prefectures, including Nantes and Rennes.
"As in 2012, we will not let it go: the resistance will be physical and determined", warns the movement of occupation, invoking a "hybrid force" made of "barricades, blockages human or with tractors, sabotage, projectiles , perched huts "or" various harassment ".
External support has already arrived on the ZAD this week to help "fifteen projects", scheduled to last until Sunday, said an occupant to AFP. "It does not count in the thousands but there are people," she added.
The occupiers also promise in case of intervention of the police to block the roads, including the departmental 281. The rehabilitation work of this ex-"road chicanes", protected daily by 200 mobile police officers , ended last week, but the department's decree prohibiting traffic has still not been lifted.
Erected by the state as a symbol of the "return to the rule of law" on the site, RD281 is a point of tension within the very heterogeneous anti-airport movement, because of the presence in its immediate surroundings of a minority refusing any regularization.
On February 5, 2018, gendarmes protect rehabilitation work on RD281, ex- "route des chicanes" ". (AFP / Archives – DAMIEN MEYER)
Some associations, including the main one, Acipa, said as early as January that they would not come "to defend this road which must become circulating". "We may protect places, but if they are the subject of agricultural or para-agricultural projects," says Julien Durand, spokesman for the Acipa.
The massive influx of forces of the 'order' is likely to set fire to the territory tomorrow ", fears Vincent Delabouglise, member of the group of agricultural organizations Buddy 44." Nothing justifies an emergency expulsion ", he estimates, while a" The vast majority of "Zadists" seek to "be in common law" and bring to the state its wish for a convention of temporary and collective occupation of land.