French police disperse protesters opposed to motorway construction

KOLBSHEIM, France (AFP) – French police used tear gas early yesterday to disperse around 200 protesters blocking the construction of a ring road near the eastern city of Strasbourg, an AFP journalist said.

Regional authorities gave the green light in August to the plan for the construction of the 24-kilometre stretch of motorway.

But critics say it will destroy farmland and threaten endangered species including the great hamster of Alsace.

The protesters, who call themselves “zadistes”, from the French phrase “Zone a Defendre” (Zone to Defend), had set up barricades of wood and tyres on a stretch of road from the edge of the planned site to the village of Kolbsheim a few hundred metres away.

At around 6.20am, around 500 officers moved in, using their shields and tear gas to disperse the eco-activists.

They also used chainsaws to cut down the barricades, and one officer used a bolt-cutter to remove a demonstrator who had chained herself to a tree.

The mayor of Kolbsheim, Dany Karcher, in whose town the “zadistes” have been based for almost a year, denounced the use of force by the police.

“All we are asking is, at the very least, that the work be postponed” while all judicial procedures take place, he said.

“The resistance is there,” he added, criticising what he alleged was “violence by the security forces” and the use of tear gas.

French Gendarmes talk to a man as they take position in the ZAD (zone to defend) of the Strasbourg western bypass (Grand Contournement Ouest – GCO) project after the evacuation of the occupants in Kolbsheim, eastern France. – AFP