Article by Josette Combes, Ripess Europe

Everywhere, including in so-called democratic countries, demonstrating opposition to the ruling powers becomes dangerous. We won’t insist on the terrible arrests followed by torture and hangings in Iran as a result from the assassination of Mahsa Amini, stirring the revolt in the streets against the mullahs, nor on the fear that prevents opponents in China, in Russia, in Turkey to occupy the street. In France, a democratic country where this right is “normally” respected, authoritarian excesses are multiplying, especially against those who seek to prevent the pursuit of environmentally destructive projects.

“No destruction, no riots, no injuries…. Journalists are silent … The information is too soft to be exploited.” A comment posted by a participant, following the two days of mobilization (April 22 and 23, 2023) against the A69, a perfectly useless highway in the South-West of France, whose project launched 25 years ago has just begun the destruction prior to its construction. Despite the unfavorable polls, the mobilization of citizens. the protest of peasants whose land and environment will be devastated and what is more despite what we now know about global warming, the public authorities continue to persist on this archaic path. Several associations of resistance to ecological absurdities were mobilized: Extinction Rebellion, Les Soulèvements de la Terre and the one that organizes for several years the citizen mobilization La Voie est libre. On its website there is a link to a video illustration of these two days of anti A69 celebration. A lot of imagination and humor, 8200 people mobilized, throwing banana skins on the road, building a symbolic wall and racing heterogeneous and hilarious “vehicles”. Not to mention shared meals and music.

These forms of resistance are not always well tolerated. The demonstration against the mega-basins in Sainte-Solines in the Deux-Sèvres (France) was violently repressed. Banned by the Prefecture but maintained by the to protest against the project to build 16 water reserves for agro-industry, corn in particular. 1600 gendarmes faced 4000 demonstrators to defend a simple concrete hole, a prefiguration of the megabasins contested by the opponents.. The confrontation degenerated and the police forces as well as the demonstrators had injuries, some of them serious, life-threatening prognosis. About 200 elected officials, lawyers or professors denounced a breach of “the fundamental freedom to demonstrate” in a forum published by Libération.

The term ecoterrorist is now part of the vocabulary of the Minister of the Interior who was considering banning the association “Les soulèvements de la terre”, a procedure suspended to date. The announcement triggered a significant mobilization of civil society, going well beyond the members of the association. Let us add that the same minister took the opportunity to question the support to the League of Human Rights (LDH), supported by the Prime Minister on the pretext of an “Islamisation” of the LDH. All this represents a serious threat to public freedoms.

It should be remembered that activists opposing ecocidal projects that abound everywhere (in the Amazon, Uganda-Tanzania, etc.) pay with their freedom, even their lives.

The NGO Global Witness lists in its report more than 1700 murders of environmental militants in the last decade. And even though the number fell in 2021 compared to the previous year, they are still concentrated in Latin America, which accounts for more than three-quarters, led by Mexico and Colombia.

In Europe, we are not there yet, but the repression of demonstrations is becoming increasingly harsh and preventive arrests, based on electronic surveillance, are the weapon of power to prevent grains of sand in the well-oiled workings of resource exploitation and the devastation that results from it.

One can rightly ask who in fact are the eco-terrorists?