October 2012 was the first time that many French people became aware of the ZAD (“zone à défendre”) in Notre-Dame-des-Landes, an agricultural region outside of Nantes in western France. There, long-term resident farmers had been joined by supporters to form an allied occupation intent on blocking the construction of the international airport dreamt of by the state since 1966. (The term “ZAD” is an ironic reappropriation of the official designation of an area as a “zone d’aménagement différé” — the bureaucratic procedure put into place in anticipation of a large infrastructural project in order to begin the expropriations and expulsions necessary to clear the area). In October 2012, when the government launched an armed evacuation of “illegal” residents of the zone, destroying structures and razing homes, fierce resistance on the part of the inhabitants forced the armed forces to withdraw. A wave of massive demonstrations in support of the ZAD, involving sometimes up to 40,000 people, began, the most recent on October 8th of this year after the government announced another imminent military evacuation of the region.
Below is a response from members of the ZAD, written for Collectif Mauvaise Troupe, and published in Le Monde earlier this month. Translated by Kristin Ross.
ZAD at Notre-Dame-des-Landes, 2012.
As we write, the noise of helicopters tries to interfere with our concentration. Every day now, for some time, they have been circling around, high up where the airplanes don’t fly, recreating the sights and sounds of war and the threat of another conquest.