Injuries, arrests as French police crack down on protests at farm site
The argument over water resources has intensified as a result of France's worst drought on record, with some accusing artificial reservoirs of favoring large farms.
100 injuries were reported in clashes between environmentalists and French police at a demonstration on Saturday against the building of a sizable water reservoir for farm irrigation in western France, according to the authorities.
About 60 gendarmes and 30 demonstrators were injured in the protest, which the authorities tried to suppress in the Sainte-Solin area.
French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin tweeted: "61 gendarmes were wounded, 22 of them seriously."
61 gendarmes ont été blessés, dont 22 sérieusement. Ce chiffre démontre que ce n’était pas une manifestation pacifique mais un rassemblement très violent. J’espère que toutes les forces politiques républicaines condamneront ces violences. https://t.co/vQVNAIL2Xx— Gérald DARMANIN (@GDarmanin) October 29, 2022
This summer's severe drought in France has intensified discussions over water availability in the largest agricultural sector of the European Union. Some farmers believe that artificial reservoirs are an effective method to utilize water, but some have criticized them as being excessive and favoring huge farms.
Several thousand protesters disobeyed a ban on gathering at the proposed reservoir in the rural Sainte-Soline neighborhood. French media broadcast images of the demonstrators swarming across fields in the direction of the cordoned-off construction site and being repelled by tear gas.
Marc Fesneau, the French Minister of Agriculture, slammed protesters on Twitter for their "intention to block a project developed locally over years" and denounced the violence against police.
Officials from the Green Party who took part in the demonstration blamed an excessive security presence that enlisted more than 1,500 officers. "All that to protect a water grab in the midst of a drought," lawmaker Sandrine Rousseau tweeted.
Il y avait 1700 policiers et gendarmes.— Sandrine Rousseau (@sandrousseau) October 29, 2022
Il y a la cellule #demeter
La surveillance par caméra des allers et venues des opposants aux #bassines.
Tout cela pour protéger un accaparement de l’eau en pleine période de sécheresse.#SainteSoline
Four protesters were injured and six were arrested, the prefect said.