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Monday, February 26, 2024

France. Violent clashes between environmentalists and the police during a protest against the construction of a storage reservoir in Sainte-Soline

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In western France, protesters clashed with police during a demonstration against the construction of a storage reservoir, burning several police and gendarmerie cars. The officers used tear gas, water cannons and stun grenades. “Many demonstrators were injured,” reported the journalist Le Monde.

Violent protests by environmentalists, left-wing activists and local residents – opposing the construction of the retention reservoir – returned to the commune of Sainte-Soline in the department of Deux-Sevres in western France. Down previous protests happened last October.

According to the farmers’ project, supported by the government, 16 tanks with a total capacity of about six cubic meters are to be built, mainly in Deux-Sevres. This is to store water in winter to irrigate crops in summer when rainfall is low.

Opponents of the project explain that the reservoir will drain local land to the benefit of only a few corn farmers. Environmentalists accuse farmers of using pesticides despite previous agreements to limit the use of these chemicals.

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“This is monopolizing by a minority of the common good, which is water,” protest organizers say. Supporters of the project see it as a condition for the survival of farms in the face of the threat of recurring droughts.

On Saturday, protesters clashed with police officers in the commune. Among several thousand people protesting peacefully, there were several hundred aggressive, hooded people.

The demonstration quickly turned into sharp clashes with the police, which were attacked by people armed with long rods. The police were attacked by demonstrators with firecrackers, stones and Molotov cocktails. The video provided by Reuters shows a burning police car and demonstrators throwing rocks and firecrackers. According to Le Monde, at least two police vehicles and several gendarmerie vehicles were set on fire.

Opponents of the construction of the reservoir demonstrated despite the ban on gatherings in the Sainte-Soline district, Reuters reported. The agency described that police officers used tear gas to repel the crowd that was approaching the construction site of the retention reservoir across the field.

Protest in the commune of Sainte-SolineReuters

Remi Barroux, a Le Monde journalist who was on the scene, reported that the police had used water cannons and stun grenades. “Many demonstrators were injured,” he wrote. According to the daily Le Figaro, five demonstrators were injured, one seriously. According to France24, eleven people have been detained.

Before 4 p.m., the calmer demonstrators began to leave the protest site. The more radical ones also began to leave, announcing that they would return in the evening.

Protest in the commune of Sainte-SolineReuters

Emmanuelle Dubee, prefect of the departments of Deux-Sevres, estimated that the number of protesters could be around 1,000. Gerald Darmanin, Minister of the Interior and Overseas Territories, said the government had sent 3,000 officers to the site. On Twitter, he condemned the “brutal” actions of the protesters. “No one should tolerate this,” he said.

Reuters, Le Monde, France24, PAP

Main photo source: Reuters

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