Deux-Sèvres: “anti-bassine” demonstrators arrive, more than 3,000 gendarmes and police mobilized

Dozens of tractors arrived Friday evening at the camp of the demonstrators counting on Saturday to defy the prefectural ban on marching against the “basins” of Deux-Sèvres, protected by 3,200 gendarmes and police to try to avoid new clashes.

A little earlier, the gendarmerie reported the first clashes in the neighboring department of Vienne where demonstrators cut barriers to access a high-speed track, but were pushed back by the police. At the request of the local prefecture, the SNCF diverted the trains on the “secondary network” between Poitiers and Angoulême.

Opponents of these water reserve projects, which they call “megabasins”, have themselves evoked an action of “diversion” to allow the convoy of tractors “to cut across fields” and thus “overflow the device “Police intended to block it, in a press release sent by the collective Bassines non merci, one of the organizers of this weekend of protest.

The prefect of Deux-Sèvres, Emmanuelle Dubée, also reported on BFMTV attacks by “armed black blocks” in the afternoon against a checkpoint and a gendarmerie roadblock.

Military trucks, quads, helicopters: the police had begun to take position on Friday morning around the “basin” under construction in Sainte-Soline, the scene at the end of October of the last demonstration against this water reserve project, also prohibited.

The authorities expect the arrival in the department on Saturday of 7,000 to 10,000 opponents of these water reservoirs intended for agricultural irrigation, including “about 1,500 radical activists trained in violence”, according to Ms. Dubée. More than a thousand demonstrators have already arrived on Friday, many groups hooded and dressed in black, AFP journalists noted.

The sixteen “basins” planned for the Sèvre Niortaise (AFP – Cléa PÉCULIER)

“We will see extremely harsh images because there is a very large mobilization of the far left and of those who want to attack the gendarmes and perhaps kill the gendarmes and kill the institutions”, affirmed the minister of the Interior Gérald Darmanin on Cnews.

The prefect of Deux-Sèvres spoke at midday of “significant seizures of objects constituting weapons or weapons by destination” during checks prior to the event.

“We seized pétanque balls, slingshots, slingshots, blunt objects, incendiary products such as mortars (…) There are also knives, axes”, detailed during the same point- urges General Samuel Dubuis, commander of the New-Aquitaine gendarmerie region.

– “Base camp” –

The organizers of the rally – the collective “Bassines non merci”, the environmental movement of the Uprisings of the Earth and the agricultural union Confédération paysanne – have set up a camp “near the demonstration area, under the nose and beard of the prefectural system and numerous area checks”.

According to them, this “base camp” installed on a private plot, lent by its owner, is located outside the perimeter of the prohibition of the demonstration, whose exact location is still unclear, between the municipalities of Sainte-Soline “and/or” Mauzé-sur-le-Mignon, where a first “basin” is already in service.

“As the country rises up to defend pensions, we will simultaneously stand up to defend water,” say the organizers.

Sixteen reservoirs, with a total capacity of around 6 million cubic meters, are to be built, mainly in Deux-Sèvres, as part of a project led by a cooperative of 450 farmers with state support.

It aims to store water in the open air drawn from the surface aquifers in winter, in order to irrigate crops in summer when rainfall is scarce.

Gendarmes arrive at the site of the water reserve under construction in Sainte-Soline, March 24, 2023 in Deux-Sèvres (AFP - THIBAUD MORITZ)
Gendarmes arrive at the site of the water reserve under construction in Sainte-Soline, March 24, 2023 in Deux-Sèvres (AFP – THIBAUD MORITZ)

Its supporters make it a condition for the survival of farms in the face of the threat of recurring droughts.

Opponents of “basins” denounce a “grabbing” of water by “agro-industry” at the time of climate change, and demand a moratorium on their construction to launch “a real territorial project” on “water sharing”.

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