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What the papers said 10 April 2018

rfi English, Apr 10

President Macron's government evicts squatters at Notre-Dame-des-Landes abandoned airport site in a powerful message to striking unionists about his determination to restore state authority.

We begin with reactions in the regional dailies to a huge security operation on Monday involving some 2,500 policemen to evict hard-line squatters occupying the site of the now abandoned airport project at Notre-Dame-des-Landes near Nantes.

Le Parisien reports that dozens of hooded anti-capitalist activists used tractors and burning barricades of tyres, petrol bombs, electricity poles and anything within their reach to try to keep riot police at bay, after defying a government order to clear off the farmland by spring.

According to the newspaper, the eco-warriors known as Zadistes or protectors of defendable zones who have turned the 1,600-hectare site into a utopian experiment in autonomous living are demanding the right to stay put.

But as Le Parisien reports, Interior Minister Gerard Collomb has vowed to keep the police on the site for “as long as is necessary" to prevent those forced out from returning.

Le Figaro claims in an editorial that chasing away the Zadists from Notre-Dame-des-Landes, despite calling off the airport project was a necessity in order to restore the authority of the state.

The government it argues could not allow such a tiny minority to dictate its own laws on the majority, especially after so many years of foot-dragging by the previous Hollande administration.

From the right-wing publication's point of view, it was urgent to act decisively so as to prevent the Zadistes from taking over other project sites.

Le Figaro, says it expects the same state authority to be exercised over universities rocked by disruptions of lectures and hostage taking by radical student groups as well as in other no-hope places around the French Republic, over striking train workers, if the government hopes to leave a mark in its agenda to stop the decline of the French economy.

The expulsion of the Zadistes is above everything a timely political message delivered at an ideal moment says les Dernières Nouvelles d'Alsace.

And according to Sud-Ouest, due to the rather tense social context, one would have expected the government to think twice before taking on the Zadistes.

But it explains, Macron and his Prime Minister Edouard Philippe proved through the operation that they are not intimidated by all the fuss being made about the possible convergence of different struggles into another May 1968 – the volatile period of civil unrest in France 50 years ago, marked by demonstrations and massive general strikes, as well as the occupation of universities and factories across the country.

For Midi Libre the government is right from the political and moral points of view, the law playing in its favour, the executive having carried the day in the battle with the unions to win over public opinion.

L'Opinion looks forward to Thursday's prime time television interview arguing that Macron appears to have suddenly become aware of the dangers represented in the changing social climate.

The paper says he is anxious not only to put out the first fire threatening to engulf his plans to revamp the public SNCF railway company, but to maintain the confidence bestowed on him by the French people to change the country.

According to L'Humanité, watching President Macron take over the airwaves - starting on Thursday with appointments lined up until Sunday with the likes of BFM RMC and the investigative website Mediapart, under the pretence of demonstrating how close he is with countryside folks is quite frustrating.

The Communist daily says such a media blitz is one of the worse of its kind and is tantamount to a confiscation of free speech, a denial of democracy.

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