French police clash with reservoir protesters
STORY: One police officer and a protester were seriously injured in France on Saturday – this time in clashes during an unauthorized demonstration against the construction of a water reservoir for farm irrigation in western France.
In the rural town of Sainte-Soline, at least 6,000 protesters had joined the march – according to the prefect of the surrounding region – defying a ban on protests at the site where a similar demonstration last October also turned violent.
Police fired tear gas to repel some protestors who threw fireworks and other projectiles as they crossed fields to approach the construction area.
At least three police vehicles were set on fire.
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin condemned the violence, which he blamed on far-left activists.
He added that one police officer and one protestor were in critical condition and said, altogether, seven protesters and 24 police officers were injured.
Around 3,200 police officers, some in helicopters and on quad bikes, were deployed for the demonstration, authorities said.
Disturbances had started in nearby areas on Friday ahead of Saturday's violence.
The irrigation project protest comes after weeks of anti-pension reform demonstrations that have turned violent since the French government pushed through the legislation without a final parliamentary vote.
France's worst drought on record last summer sharpened the debate over water resources in the European Union's biggest agricultural sector.
Supporters say artificial reservoirs are a way to use water efficiently when needed, while critics – who call them "mega-basins" – argue they are outsized and favor large farms.