The protests began a year ago in this quiet corner of southwestern France, as a small and peaceful gathering of hippies, environmental activists and utopians of all types set up tents to oppose the construction of a nearby dam.
In August, after local authorities sent diggers and then crushing machines to level the soil and destroy trees, clashes erupted between protesters and the police, turning this vast stretch of woodland into what many here called a war zone.
More than a hundred protesters, joined by a minority of violent groups, responded to tear gas and rubber bullets by throwing fire bombs. They built makeshift checkpoints, roadblocks, and two watchtowers. Finally, last weekend, a 21-year-old student, Remi Fraisse, was killed after being hit by a stun grenade that protesters say was thrown by a police officer.
–from a New York Times article published on November 1, 2014
Since the killing of Remi Fraisse in Lise-sur-Tarn that occurred after the police lobbed a grenade at the young protestor’s back, there has been an eruption of protests throughout France. Many young people care about the environment and are increasingly hostile towards the government’s destructive policies. If the 8.4 million euro dam project is allowed to continue, it will threaten “94 protected species of animals and plants,” the article admits.
Those in favor of the dam are about one hundred local corn farmers who most likely receive government subsidies for their crops. The “intensive farming” that building of the dam would provide would pulverize the local environment.
Yet the reporter here–Maia de la Baume–tilts her account in favor of the corn farmers. “How do we live if we stop making corn?” a farmer is quoted as saying towards the end of the article. “What do we want to create, a rural desert?”
De la Baume emphasizes the violence of the “eco-warriors” in the region (the same people she dismissively labels “hippies”
at the beginning of the article) and the article ends with a quote from a Mr. de Pierpont who says, “They don’t come here for the dam–they come to fight. And they have massacred our forest.”
She also underlines “the increasingly violent nature of protests inspired by antiglobalization movements, such as Occupy Wall Street, that have spread across France in recent years.” And later on, de la Baume quotes a young woman who says, “As long as there will be capitalist policies there will be crisis.” I guess that kind of statement (along with the title of the article: “In France, Dam Is the Catalyst for a Flood of Young People’s Anger”) puts the fear of god into corporate heads.
So much ink is spilled here about the anger and violent methods of the protesters (are they hippies or hooligans?) that, apart from the token nod towards the “94 protected species of animals and plants” that would be fair game if the dam were built, we hear surprisingly little about the violence of the bulldozing dam-builders who are set to ravage the earth. How about the anger of the corporate heads who want to destroy and discard this rural community and its ecosystem? Why don’t we hear more about bottomless greed and the hostility towards anything that opposes corporate interests and that supports what little is left of nature on this beautiful planet? Why don’t we hear about how people are connected in a very real way to their local environments and the animals and plants that thrive in their regions? Instead, we are told that young people are angry. It seems to be a meaningless anger that has risen out of a void.
How convenient to report on big angry protestors and poor little corporate interests. It’s a scary bedtime story from our mainstream media. I hope these eco-warriors or hippies or “utopians of all types” really turn the situation into a nightmare for those with big bucks and giant bulldozers. It would be a sign that Remi Fraisse–a young environmentalist killed by the police–will live on in the hearts and minds of people all over who are dedicated to saving this planet from its worst enemies.