Notre-Dame-des-Landes (France): Yet Another Forest Eviction, 5th November 2012

We live in the Rohanne Forest. Over the last two years the many people who lived and passed by here built seven high tree houses and a beautiful three storey collective house. On Thursday 19th October the police came with bulldozers and destroyed and removed the house.

Starting the next day, and with lots of motivated helpers, we built a new kitchen six metres up in the trees, and a new communal sleeping area a bit higher. On Tuesday 30th October and Wednesday 31st October they returned with bulldozers and cherry pickers to destroy the two newly finished cabins, plus all of the seven high tree houses.

During the weekend we built a quick temporary shelter on the ground with palettes and tarps so we could sleep there while we rebuilt tree houses. It was basically a few mattresses on palettes, with beams lashed in the trees and covered with tarps.

Early in the morning on Monday 5th November around twenty vans of police blocked the roads around the Rohanne Forest. They entered on foot, and at half eight in the morning six sleeping people were surrounded by about thirty cops with shields, full riot gear and loud walkie-talkies, and shouted at to take what they could carry and get out of the forest. The cops started taking the shelter apart and cutting the tarps into small pieces while we were still inside. After forcing us outside and pushing us to the ground they slashed the mattresses and pulled everything apart, including cutting the polyprop into little tiny bits so it couldn’t be used again. If I didn’t know better I’d say we’re really starting to piss them off.

They tipped a first aid kit out onto the wet muddy forest floor and stamped on it, and did the same with a box of muesli and the whole contents of the bike panniers. They destroyed the two bikes despite our hand on heart promise from the head of operations that we could keep our bikes and they wouldn’t be touched. They pushed us, threatened us and forced us out of the forest. They tried to march us through a huge puddle near the entrance which we know to be knee-deep, but we suggested they instead follow us along the path which they did.

All the male bodied people were searched by the cops, and one had an identity card with them. The other two were taken to the police station for an identity control. The three female bodied people were asked to wait for a female cop to search them. And wait. And wait. And wait. It seems that there are not so many female bodied cops around and after about an hour they just asked for our names and places of birth. When they had no joy extracting personal information there was a small cop huddle, after which they came and told us we could just go. Why? We were told they’re sick of us, and that they didn’t want to waste time in the police station, again, if we weren’t going to give our names, again.

It was a pretty unpleasant way to wake up, all told, and it is getting slightly tedious having our houses destroyed every week. Having had some time to reflect though, I can’t help but see a funny side to all this. When we asked why we were being taken the police told us it was illegal to free camp in the forest. So around two hundred riot police surrounded the forest and spent almost an entire day scouring through every inch of it just to find six free campers. Twenty vans full of highly equipped cops just to take down a few beams and tarps put up in a weekend. We might have had enough of cops but it’s clear that we are annoying the shit out of them. To the next forest cabin!