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NOTRE-DAME-DES-LANDES, France: French policemen yesterday fired tear gas at protesting squatters during a drive to evict them from the site of a proposed new airport to be built on protected swampland.
A policeman and two television journalists were slightly wounded as the angry protestors hurled bottles, stones and firecrackers at the estimated 500 policemen, a correspondent said.
The policeman had an injured hand and the journalists appeared to have mild head injuries. The crackdown at Notre-Dame-Des-Landes, north of the western city of Nantes, came a day ahead of a planned protest that is expected to gather thousands of activists.
Two excavators and a large waste receptacle were deployed to clear an area where the protestors had set up shacks at the 1,650-hectare (4,000-acre) site.
Interior Minister Manuel Valls adopted a tough tone, saying “It is out of the question to let a cyst grow,” and vowed to do “all we can to ensure the law is respected and construction can start”.
“It’s a useful project... for millions of inhabitants of our country,” he said. The airport, which is scheduled to replace the current airport at Nantes in 2017, is a pet project of Socialist Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, who was the city’s mayor from 1989 until this year.
It has been opposed by the Greens and various politicians on environmental grounds. Eco-warrior protestors have set up numerous camps around the area.
Interior ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet confirmed a sweep was underway. “This operation is aimed at clearing three sites occupied illegally,” he said.AFP