Charles Guyard with AFP, edited by Laura Laplaud 07h16, March 25, 2023, modified at 07h16, March 25, 2023

More than 3,000 police mobilized on one side, 1,500 "violent activists" expected on the other: the new demonstration against the "basins", symbol of tensions around access to water, is placed under high security Saturday in the Deux-Sèvres.

Up to 10,000 people are expected around Sainte-Soline this weekend, where one of these reservoirs dedicated to agricultural irrigation is under construction, five months after a previous rally punctuated by clashes. The construction site, briefly invaded by demonstrators at the end of October, is protected by a double row of fences two meters high, and its accesses defended by roadblocks.

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1,500 radical activists expected

"The first thing we fear is that the demonstration will not take place." The national spokesman of the Confédération paysanne, Nicolas Girod, has every reason to be concerned about the actual holding of this rally scheduled for a long time this weekend in the Deux-Sèvres. The prefecture again banned the demonstration, organized by the collective "Bassines non merci", the environmental movement of the Earth Uprisings and the Peasant Confederation. "People who wish to go to this banned gathering, put themselves in a situation that is a criminal offense. I advise them not to come to this rally," Emmanuelle Dubée said Friday.

Weapons seized ahead of rally

According to the prefect of the department, "about 1,500 radical activists", from France and abroad, could mingle with the demonstrators, who remained mostly peaceful in the autumn. Hundreds of them have already carried out "actions" Friday afternoon, according to her, attacking two gendarmerie roadblocks and managing to briefly enter a TGV track. A simple "diversion" to allow the convoy of tractors to bypass the police device, according to the demonstrators. Weapons were seized ahead of the rally - petanque balls, slingshots, incendiary products, knives, axes, detailed the regional commander of the gendarmerie, Samuel Dubuis.

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"By banning all demonstrations, we blow on the embers"

Despite this warning, several hundred demonstrators have already converged on a camp set up a few kilometers from Sainte-Soline, on private land. Nicolas Girod protests against this ban. "By banning any demonstration, inevitably, we blow on the embers. That's what the prefect does. This is what Gérald Darmanin does. The state prevents people from gathering peacefully!" he exclaims at the microphone of Europe 1.

Between 7,000 and 10,000 protesters are expected this weekend. On the side of the police, the Ministry of the Interior has mobilized 3,200 gendarmes and policemen, twice as many as in October. They arrived Friday morning in military trucks, quads or helicopters.