Grenoble, France: urgent call to support a tree-squatting action against the destruction of a park (in order to build a stadium)

Urgent call to support the resistance camp and tree-sit against the destruction of the Paul Mistral Park in Grenoble, France (Grenoble is a city in the east of France, near Lyon, in a river basin at the base of the Alps, which already has a big problem with pollution.)


Since November 3 2003, activists have been occupying the trees in Grenoble's Paul Mistral Park, to prevent the destruction of part of the Park. More than 300 trees of Grenoble\222s "planetary lungs", including and old, 200-year-old elm tree are slated to disappear, to make room for a giant football stadium. This elitist sports field and walking field represents one public space being privatized...

A protest campaign was launched by the \223SOS Paul Mistral Park\224 association, using lobbying and other traditional political procedures; this campaign was unable to prevent the project. Since it looked like work on the construction project was about to begin, three initial activists were quickly joined by more than twenty others in deciding to turn to direct action and to permanently occupy the terrain to stop the logging machines and bulldozers from coming in. About ten tree-houses, with mattresses and hammocks, living rooms and cooking spaces, linked by hanging bridges to a 20-foot-high platform, now make up a perpetually-evolving village above the ground.

Much of the population of Grenoble immediately showed their support for the hanging village, and the Paul Mistral Park rebels, fortified with a large stock of supplies and smiles, stayed up despite the cold. No matter what the cost, they are committed to resist eviction and to prevent the \223authorities\224 from coming to dislodge them from their trees. Thanks to the support of the people on the ground, attempts to erect metal barriers around the Park were foiled for several days in a row, in December. Technically as well as politically, the eviction of the tree-sitters may turn out to be very tricky for the Grenoble police and elected officials. It is important to note, also, that this action is occurring within a context of multiple space occupations in Grenoble, including many squats that are full of activities, the university last December, and the Rio Theatre, which was occupied for several weeks by the actors and technical workers.


Nevertheless, the mayor\222s office has already started proceedings within the Administrative Courts to evict the Paul Mistral Park tree-sitters. The mayor has, however, declared that he would respect the \223Christmas truce\224(?). All the same, the eviction may take place in the weeks just after the holidays. The tree-sitters are therefore calling for many people to come and support, whether or not they are experienced in climbing and action camps (there\222s room for everybody) and is also looking for various equipment. One of the possibilities being, of course, to join them for a few days, a few weeks, or until the eviction, to make the Park occupation more widespread.

The future and the possibility to make the mayor bend will depend in part on the number of determined people who are present on-site and on the kind of defenses put in place against eviction. An extensive telephone tree has already been created for a rapid-response network to react to any attacks on the camp.


Politically, the tree-sitters are collectively calling themselves \223eco-citizens\224. The choice of this name poses legitimate questions. The term \223citizen\224 is, in effect, taken on as a mark of political and social responsibility by many people engaged in \223civic affairs.\224 It is, nonetheless, strongly criticized by the majority of the libertarian and anti-authoritarian movements, who see it as an emblem of the legitimization of the State, a reinforcement of the structures of State oppression, and a refusal of all political confrontation outside of the institutionally-authorized and media-approved frameworks. The \223eco-citizens\224 put forward an ecological discourse to save the Park. Furthermore, the \223eco-citizens\224 are calling themselves \223apolitical\224 and do not belong to any \223party\224 or \223association\224. This claim of neutrality seems nonetheless to be part of a will, above all, to keep away any electoral cooptation by the institutional political parties, be they Green or UMP (Union for a Popular Movement, ruling party in France(?)). The stakes are enormous, and many politicians may seek to take advantage of the fact that the Socialist city government is taking sides on a popular struggle like this one. (?)

With these considerations in place, the discourse of direct action that a project like this undertakes can in itself appear to be full of political radicalism, just as radical as many other forms of theoretical discourse. The way that this protest occupation has developed into a temporary space for community life, has transformed this adventure into an experiment in collective and egalitarian organizing and living. It also allows many people, who may be relatively new to direct action, to discover new practices in activism.

This type of permanent action camp to protect a site or to prevent a big construction project, notably the use of a hanging village, is still a relatively new tactic in France. The Paul Mistral Park struggle can therefore create a precious space apprenticeship and skill-sharing. Other action camps like this were able to create a significant balance of power over the past ten years, in other European countries. It is possible to conceive of the \223action-camp\224 strategy as a means to prevent the construction of new prisons, immigrant detention centers, supermarkets, roads, nuclear power plants, etc\205

Furthermore, because of its specific focus and local context, this action is the source of multiple positive connections and exchanges with the Grenoble residents; these ties are extremely precious and often too rare within the context of direct action.

So, the only thing left to do is to join them or to follow their example in other places!

Here is their contact information:

Le Platane Insoumis, Parc Paul Mistral (The Rebellious Plantain Tree, Paul Mistral Park
38100 Grenoble FRANCE


A libertarian in solidarity with the Paul Mistral Park occupation

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