During a site visit to the A69 freeway between Castres and Toulouse, organized by concession holder Atosca, in Puylaurens (Tarn, southwestern France), on June 5, 2024.

Six years after the abandonment of the Notre-Dame-des-Landes airport project, is the A69 highway infrastructure – a 53-kilometer expressway linking Castres to Toulouse – becoming a new focal point for the fight against projects deemed “climaticidal?”

From Friday, June 7, to Sunday, June 9, several collectives are hoping to see “tens of thousands” of opponents march on the future route, where construction has already begun. Although the unofficial target is closer to 15,000 protesters, this could be the biggest gathering on site since the choice of the concession holder was announced on September 25, 2021, in Lagarrigue (Tarn, southwestern France) by then-prime minister Jean Castex.

“At the time, there were protests, which is normal in a democracy. Back then, they hadn’t reached the scale, the degree of violence they’ve taken on since,” said the former head of government on Tuesday, June 4, before the Assemblée Nationale’s commission of inquiry into the “legal and financial structure of the A69 highway project.”

The same day, in the Assemblée Nationale, Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin put more pressure on the mobilization. Anticipating an “extremely violent” demonstration, with the presence of “600 black blocs [far-left activists],” and describing “knives, hammers, axes” already seized from vehicles, he announced a ban on such gatherings. The Tarn prefecture then declared that nearly “1,000 police and gendarmes will be on the ground this weekend,” and that demonstrators would be liable to a €135 fine.

An ‘ecocidal and antisocial’ project

The state’s offensive has not demobilized the organizers. At a press conference on Wednesday, representatives of the organizations Soulèvements de la Terre, La voie est libre, Extinction Rebellion Toulouse and ZAD A69, who preferred to remain anonymous, maintained their call for mobilization, while placing the onus on the executive. “They’ve seized DIY equipment from cars…” quipped one of the occupants of the three ZADs (zone to be defended). ” All this is done to legitimize repression. Despite what the interior minister tells us, we’re not the ones with lethal weapons.” “Our goal remains to celebrate, to welcome people peacefully. If there are any incidents, they will be the police’s fault,” said Daniel Coutarel, of the Confédération Paysanne (farmers’ confederation), which is supporting the rally.

Opponents began setting up a base camp on private land in the municipality of Puylaurens on Thursday. Although they are still keeping tight-lipped about the three-day event, the organizers intend to maintain most of the original program, including a “Manif’action” on Saturday afternoon. “We call on opponents of the A69 to join the camp (…) and to prepare for a massive mobilization this weekend to block the construction sites,” they said on social media.

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