I’m officially on vacation (I have been since Tuesday since I only worked 2 hours this week) and heading to the alps on Monday!
So this past weekend there was a huge protest or manifestation in Nantes against the building of a second airport for the city in a farm region called Notre-Dame des Landes. Apparently, the former mayor of Nantes, Jean-Marc Ayrault, who is now the French Prime Minister proposed the airport while he was still the mayor and the farmers and a group called ZAD (zone à defendre) have been protesting the airport ever since. The farmers are protesting because it will obviously take up their land and the surrounding area while others are protesting because it will disrupt the schools there and could be dangerous for the people who live in that area, also, it will have negative environmental effects which is an important issue for the Nantais.
We wandered out of our apartment Saturday afternoon to go to the observatory when we ran into the protest just around the corner. The overall feel was really festive and fun! People were selling crepes and gallettes and drinking and playing music! There were also hundreds (400 to be exact) of tractors parked on the street and along the tram line. We had heard there was a protest scheduled and that the trams wouldn’t be running into the center of the city during the day but we didn’t think anything of it because there are always protests scheduled and you just kinda walk around them. But this was huge.
So we wandered around until we got closer to the center where all of the tram lines/buses meet and it was crazy! There was a huge police barricade set up and the gendarmerie was there with human shields at every street. People (“the anarchists”) were throwing malakoff cocktails and fireworks and objects at the police barrier. We also saw them kick in the glass of the posters that are all around the city. Anna and I were pretty excited/inspired to be part of this giant protest until something came flying in the air towards where we were and everyone was running. So we decided to keep our distance from the center. We walked around the other end of where the barricade was and watched it from the other side and it looked crazy. The cops were hosing people and then started throwing tear gas at the crowd.
We ended up spending the afternoon in the good weather listening to the sounds of the protest at the Jardin des Plantes where Anna got attacked by a goat!
While walking to and from the Jardin we could see little pockets of protesters everywhere around the city AND members of the gendarmerie with their shields and guns. We also saw someone set a piece of construction equipment on fire and on the way back we saw them set the transportation huts surrounding the tram tracks on fire. We texted Josephine around this time and she said to avoid the center because it was really dangerous.
We later found out that at least 8 police officers were hurt and several civilians. The next day we went out to see the damage and there was graffiti EVERYWHERE, glass EVERYWHERE, the TAN (transportation) shop was boarded up, and some of the stones in the tram tracks were gone (an allusion to the student protests in the St. Michel quartier in Paris, where the students ripped up the stones to fight the authorities). It literally looked like a different city. We later found out that there was about a million euros worth of damage done that day by the left-wing anarchists.
It was seriously crazy, I’ve never seen anything like this and I think were lucky to not get hurt.