Thousands of activists have staged a protest in France to object to the nearly 600 - million - euro construction of a new international airport at a time the country is suffering a financial crisis.
The protest was held on Sunday at the planned site of the airport near Notre - Dame de Landes, located 30 kilometers outside the western city of Nantes. Organizers estimated that the event would gather 25,000 people, but police said it counted eight to nine thousand activists. Opponents say that there is no need for a new airport as the capacity of the existing one could be increased.
“During this time of economic crisis, public money should be used on things other than useless projects, ” said municipal councilor Thierry Brulavoine.
Protesters tried to literally “occupy the sky” by flying over a thousand kites, some carrying protest slogan “free people - free sky.” One of the organizers Anne-Marie Chabod said the kites were a “symbolic action… to say the sky should be kept free, like the ground at Notre-Dame des Landes.” This latest rally was one in a series of protests that began 13 years ago. Last fall, activists, including local residents, farmers and environmentalists clashed with police after they set up a protest camp in the planned construction area. The confrontation forced Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, who was the mayor of Nantes in 1989 to 2012, to postpone the project for six months. Ayrault, one of the main supporters of the airport project, also ordered a Commission for Dialogue to be created in order for the protesters to come to an agreement with the developer, the Vinci Company. The French government has refused to reconsider the construction plans, which were first put forward in the 1960s. The airport project, approved in 2008, is planned to be finished by 2017. The new airport would replace the existing Nantes Atlantique Airport.