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Politics & Current Affairs

Massive French Open-Air Protest Site Holds Fast

On Tuesday a judge will decide whether to authorize yet another round of evictions from a forest north of Nantes that is home to a growing number of international squatters protesting plans for a proposed airport.

What’s the Latest Development?

On Tuesday a French judge will decide whether to give the go-ahead to another series of evictions from the Rohanne forest, which is 12 miles north of Nantes and home to a growing number of protesters from across Europe, creating what the local police chief says is the largest open-air squat on the continent. The occupants, which include local farmers and residents, are objecting to the building of an airport on the site, which is just outside of the village of Notre-Dame-des-Landes. According to one local, “Some of the environmental protesters living in self-built wood cabins have been here for years with their families and children. They refuse to give up and so do we.” Demonstrators marched on the streets of Nantes last weekend.

What’s the Big Idea?

The airport plans, and the opposition to them, date back 45 years. Socialist government supporters say the airport is necessary to keep Nantes and nearby areas competitive, while Green Party opponents point to the existing airport south of the city and say that another one is not necessary. The site has become a national symbol of resistance against excess development; one “treehouse activist” who has been there for two years says, “Occupation is the last line of defence.”

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