Hunger strikes in Nantes


Picture the scene: it’s early in the morning. The sun is shining and you’re sitting having your breakfast, which happens to be a café au lait and a baguette because, for the purposes of this exercise, you are French. While you quietly contemplate some elaborate existentialist theory (did I mention you’re French?), you notice the post drop through the letterbox. One official looking letter drops to the floor. You open it, cautiously…

Oh là là! What has fallen onto your doormat is nothing less than a compulsory purchase order for your farmstead! That’s right, the farmstead you’ve lived and worked on for as long as you care to remember, the ground you’ve tended to with your own bare hands, your past, your present, your future… All of this is being taken from you. Stolen. Demanded by a government which claims to represent you. And to what end? In order that a multi-billion pound industry can build a new runway over the top of it. Why, you ask? So that they can increase their profit margins of course (tsk, don’t waste our time with stupid questions, Monsieur!!).

Sadly this is no elaborate horror story. This week, the first two farmers in Nantes have been issued with compulsory purchase orders for their land by the government in order to make way for a second Nantes airport. What is particularly dreadful about this is that the authorities who want to build the airport are embroiled in legal challenges from those campaigning against the airport. If the campaigner’s challenges are successful, the airport will be stopped but the farmers will still have lost their land and their livelihood.

Faced with the total destruction of their way of life and the loss of their homes, these brave farmers are fighting back. This week marks the beginning of their hunger strike.

For years campaigners in and around Nantes have been fighting against plans for a new airport. In March, thousands of campaigners took to the streets of Paris to protest against the plans. Many of them had travelled 400km from Nantes to the French capital on their bikes and tractors. This Wednesday, in support of the two farmers and their hunger strike, campaigners set up camp outside the Monument de la Résistance in Nantes with their sheep and tractors! They need your support – please join the campaigners if you can or email them a message of support.

With plans to expand airports popping up all over the EU, there has been an unprecedented EU-wide fight against expansion. As well as fierce battles in Nantes, Plane Stupid activists recently visited anti-airport expansion campaigners in Munich, and in Frankfurt, where campaigners have recently won a ban on night flights. Up to 5,000 thousand campaigners are turning up every Monday to take part in protests in the new airport terminal, with up to 20,000 people showing up for Saturday specials.

Throughout history people have taken bold actions to stop injustices from taking place on their doorstep. The French farmers are now doing just that. By going on hunger strike they are not only standing up for local communities and the climate in the face of powerful corporate interest and single minded politicians, they are demonstrating to us all that we have the ability to take the power back. Join them, and let’s take that power back together.