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State violence against environmental activists is not limited to governments such as Guatemala or Mexico. Last October 27, the French police murdered young activist Remi Fraisse amid a protest against the building of the Sivens dam in Gaillac, to the South-West of the country.
Approximately 2000 people were demonstrating last Monday against the building of this project aimed for irrigation, which has the support of the State, near Albi, 30 kilometers from Toulouse.
The mobilizations against the deforestation implied by the flooding of the area, and the effects on the peasant population, has increased in the past two months, with even hunger strikes among the community. Despite this, Francoise Hollande´s administration will carry on with the project.
The dam will cause the flooding of around 40 hectares on the Tescou River, and its building, which is fairly advanced, is threatening the Testet wetlands, one of the last remaining wetlands in this basin, reports Radio France Internationale.
In response to the wave of protests after the death of the activist, the French administration decided to deny any implication of the public force in instigating violence and announced an investigation whose results would be available in two weeks.
However, Remi Fraisse´s body showed traces of grenades used by the French Gendarmerie, according to the local public prosecutor.
Bernard Cazeneuve, French Minister of the Interior, has announced a suspension on the use of grenades by the police forces. Meanwhile, Albi´s local prosecutor, Claude Derens, had stated that traces of TNT have been found on the clothes of the dead activist.
Several mobilizations against police violence took place in the capital city of the country, Paris, and in Lyon, Brest and Marseille. And also different international environmental networks, such as Friends of the Earth International, through its local member, Friends of the Earth France and others of the 80 groups that are part of this federation have expressed their solidarity.
Remi was an Environment student at Toulouse University and his murder has brought further tensions between the social forces and the French government, especially the Ministry of the Interior.
Even though the use of grenades against demonstrators has been banned, the Gendarme responsible for the murder has not been suspended.
The demonstrators are demanding a halt to the project -which has been temporarily suspended after Remi´s death- and an independent investigation to identify the authors of the murder.
Friends of the Earth France has released a statement in solidarity with the family and friends of the young activist who was murdered. This statement denounces the grabbing of lands and water resources by a "handful of companies" with the support of the State, privatizing territories to the detriment of the community.
La oposición a la minería debe entenderse como la lucha por los derechos que esa actividad no respeta, pues “cada derecho que se le otorga a una empresa, es un derecho que se le resta a una comunidad”, asegura el coordinador del Observatorio de Conflictos Mineros de América Latina (OCMAL), César Padilla.
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