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Interview with a ZAD resister

As the cops close in, SchNEWS talks to a ZAD occupier about building resistance, burning barricades, and fighting for the countryside 'til the bitter end.

UPDATE: The sh*t's well and truly hit the fan since we published this interview last week... Stay tuned for more SchNEWS from the front...

It's been over a month since Europe's “largest Postcapitalist land occupation”, la ZAD, western France, has been under attack from the authorities. The 12km site, occupied for five years, has for the large part functioned as a hippy-ass heaven run by rural rebels. Now the occupiers are living out their raison d'etre: defending the area from development into a concrete jungle and new airport.

SchNEWS caught up with a ZAD occupier to get the lowdown...


SchNEWS: It's been about a month since the evictions began. Could you recap what's happened and what the situation is like now?

Zadder: Well there was a big wave of evictions at the beginning with some places like the 'big forest' – the big forest got evicted four times and so they're having to re-evict places – and last Friday there was a big manifestation [demonstration] in Notre-Damme-Des-Landes [the local village] with about 40,000 people. After that a lot of people began rebuilding areas in the big forest, doing building projects. There's people from all over France bringing flat-packed houses and pre-prepared things to build.

Last Friday one of the longest-standing squats, 'la Rossier', was meant to be evicted but it hasn't happened yet. Since last Friday there hasn't been a police presence on the ZAD due to large numbers of people on the ground. The numbers are kind of going down now after the mani so we think its likely the evictions will start again soon.

S: How many extra people were on the ZAD after the manifestation?

Z: About two or three thousand people, it's hard to tell 'cause it's so spread out... Even the helicopters aren't circling like they were before. People have been shooting up flares so it's been coming and getting scared off again.

S: Apart from the big forest, how many other places were evicted in the first wave?

Z: La Saulce, les Planchettes. [names denote living and resistance hubs in the pre-apocalyptic squat-scape] I'm not entirely sure which of the others. There are several still there – la Rossier, la Gare, and lots more.

S: Have they stayed evicted or have they been re-occupied as well?

Z: No, la Saulce and les Planchettes were evicted then they destroyed it all, the houses, the tree houses, and they removed all the materials. Even the foundations of the houses are gone. All the evictions they came in and locked down and removed everything, everyone's bikes, everything, so people couldn't start rebuilding. You can't stay on the ground, the police will just come in and evict. But people have started to build again since the mani.

S: What kind of resistance tactics were people using against the evictions?

Z: A lot of people were staying up in trees, but the police came up and took them down pretty violently. At one point after the tree houses got evicted people tried to reoccupy in a small house on the ground and that was also violently evicted in the early morning. The police came in and started to tear down the house before they'd even got them out of it.

S: Have the police maintained a presence around the area over and above the eviction operations?

Z: Yeah they were doing road checks for a while and patrols with cars, although not so much since Friday. Apparently the other day a cop car came through doing a patrol then they realised how many people were here and they just left. The last week there's not really been any police presence around at all.

S: Do you think the police expected it to be easier than this?

Z: I think so. At first the evictions were going very quickly. They were evicting places one after another. Now they seem to be being less successful. They came the other day trying to secure a road, failed and went away again.

S: How many occupiers are there at the moment and what's the morale like?

Z: There are a lot of people, exactly how many it's hard to tell. People are staying in their areas - there are so many barricades everywhere it's hard to get around, especially on bikes. Quite a lot of people are drained. But since the weekend there's been new people with new energy turning up, ready to start doing stuff that the long-timers are getting a bit tired of doing. There's been a lot of workshops over the weekend teaching new people climbing and tree house-building and stuff.

S: So what are you expecting over the next couple of weeks?

Z: I think everyone's expecting some sort of big crackdown as the numbers dwindle after the manifestation. Everyday there's significantly less people and the choppers come round more. We saw police on foot coming through yesterday. We're gearing up for a big lot of evictions – some places specifically are on eviction alert. We're hoping the numbers don't dwindle too much because that's what's been discouraging the police from coming at the moment.

S: What strategies are being used?

Z: Lots of mental road barricades of various sizes, tree houses and various other impressive tree barricades.

S: And throwing shit at the cops by the looks of it?

Z: (Laughs) Yeah.

S: Have you had much contact with other locals?

Z: It's been really good. Loads of local villagers have been coming in. One of the farmers on the ZAD has opened his barn for people to use as a free shop since les Planchettes got evicted. There's a board up to write lists of things that are needed, like a radio or whatever. People have been saying that there nervous of writing something down if it's a bit expensive because if they write it down, straight away someone brings it! So there's lots of support from the community going on.

At the manifestation there were loads of people from the local villages coming in, and at the building we're doing at the big forest there's been families coming in to get involved, kids, old people.

S: So I'll let you get back to building, and all that day-to-day stuff you're getting on with...

Z: Yeah, there's still loads of parties going on with free bars... Today there's a cabaret thing, they build a theatre at one of the squats. So it's nice to keep positive and do other things as well. There's all the militant stuff, but also kitchens going on, parties. For those who aren't up all night building some crazy barricade there's sorting out the free shop, medic training all other things like that.

S: Solidarité !

For a detailed, and poetic, account of recent events see this account on the ZAD site: http://zad.nadir.org/spip.php?article643

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Twitter: @SchNEWS