France to shut down activist climate group after clashes with police

The French government said on Tuesday it would soon shut down an activist climate group after a spate of recent demonstrations, including one that led to violent clashes with police over a controversial irrigation project.


Government spokesman Olivier Veran accused the Earth Rising (SLT) coalition of encouraging violence during irrigation protests near Sainte-Soline in western France in March.

“You don’t dissolve an association because of its ideas. You dissolve it because there is a risk of violence or public safety,” Veran told CNews television.

The SLT has vowed against the shutdown order, saying on its website: “You cannot dissolve a movement. You cannot dissolve a revolt.”

The SLT “caused violence in Sainte Soline by inviting thugs from all over Europe to attempt to kill police officers with metal bars and petanque balls,” Veran said.

“Climate issues don’t justify throwing stones at police in fields,” he said.

The SLT, a coalition of several activist associations, was behind recent protests against sand quarries in western France, where protesters destroyed farm fields and equipment.

The group was also one of several organizers of a banned demonstration over the weekend against a new rail line between the eastern Italian cities of Lyon and Turin.

It is part of a new wave of more aggressive climate activist groups, including Extinction Rebellion, that use direct action to underscore their warnings about the dangers to the planet.

Prosecutors also said Tuesday they had detained 14 people for vandalism during an SLT-backed protest against the Lafarge cement plant near the southern city of Marseille.

Protesters called the company “one of the most destructive companies in the world”.

policing in the spotlight

The Interior Ministry officially initiated the SLT’s disbandment after the San Sorin clashes in March, using powers previously used to outlaw far-right and Islamist groups.

The decree is likely to be discussed at the government’s weekly cabinet meeting on Wednesday, a person familiar with the matter said.

France has faced a wave of protests in recent months, mostly over a controversial decision to raise the retirement age, which has sometimes turned violent.

Some demonstrators vandalized buildings and street furniture, or threw stones at riot police.

Critics have accused authorities of stoking tensions with heavy-handed policing tactics and aggressive confrontations with demonstrators.

Many French people were shocked by the scenes in Saint-Sorin, where some 5,000 protesters clashed with more than 3,000 police.

Afterwards, two protesters fell into a coma and about 30 police officers were injured.

Demonstrators are protesting against a huge reservoir used to store water pumped from the ground water table.

Critics say this will hurt small farmers and ecosystems while mostly benefiting industrial farming groups.

The French Federation for Human Rights (FDH) later said that “as soon as the demonstrators arrived at the reservoir site, the police opened fire on them with weapons of war: tear gas, stun grenades, explosive spike grenades and rubber bullets”.

“The deployment puts everyone present at risk of serious injury,” it said.

Earlier this month, UN experts urged France to review its policing practices, expressing concern over the “reported use of excessive force against protesters”, especially in Saint-Sorling.


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