A total of 61 French gendarmes were injured over the weekend, 22 of them seriously, after they clashed with a mob of eco-leftist extremists who were demonstrating against the building of a large water reservoir.
The violent clashes took place on Saturday in Sainte-Soline after the local prefecture of Deux-Sèvres had banned the rally against the construction of a large water reservoir for agricultural irrigation, with around 4,000 demonstrators gathered at the protest.
The banned protest started at around 2 pm on Saturday afternoon and clashed with the 1,500 gendarmes officers at the event deployed to protect the construction site, the newspaper Le Figaro reports.
#SainteSoline [Deux-Sèvres] 🔴 Nombreuses violences dont des tirs de mortiers à l’encontre des #gendarmes chargés de garantir l’ordre public. Total soutien à nos gendarmes blessés #vousProtéger pic.twitter.com/06ut5QSpf8
— Gendarmerie nationale (@Gendarmerie) October 29, 2022
According to local authorities, around 400 black-bloc-style far-left extremists were behind much of the violence from the demonstrators, lobbing Molotov cocktails at officers along with explosives and other projectiles.
Along with the 61 gendarmes who were injured during the violence, around 30 of the demonstrators were also injured.
French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin commented on the violence over the weekend saying, “61 gendarmes were injured, 22 of them seriously. This figure shows that it was not a peaceful demonstration but a very violent rally.”
“I hope that all the republican political forces will condemn this violence,” Minister Darmanin added and later labelled the actions of the demonstrators as “ecoterrorism.”
— Thomas Portes (@Portes_Thomas) October 29, 2022
The collective Bassines Non Merci organised the protest and is said to be an amalgamation of various groups including trade unions, environmental groups and anti-capitalists. They later released a statement saying they would continue the protest against the construction of the reservoir, which they have labelled “water grabbing.”
The violence is not unprecedented in France, as similar incidents have taken place between far-left extremists and police, such as in 2018 when officers clashed with far-left extremists occupying the Notre-Dame-Des-Landes abandoned airport site.
The clashes between extremists and police lasted for several days as a group of 100 squatters had declared the areas an “autonomous utopia” and had occupied the site since 2008.