Environment: are there really eco-terrorists in France, as Gérald Darmanin suggests?

The actions of opponents of the Sainte-Soline mega-basins project “amount to eco-terrorism”, released Gérald Darmanin, Sunday, October 30, after several clashes between activists and police. The demonstrations this weekend opposed the creation of water retention basins to allow agriculture to compensate for future droughts.

>> Deux-Sèvres: “The only ones who have been aggressive are the police”, reacts the left after the accusations of “ecoterrorism”

This communication strategy of the Ministry of the Interior is assumed: it aims to take the French shocked by the images to witness, we explain on the side of the executive. But “there are no eco-terrorists in the proper sense in France”, replies Eric Denécé. The director of the French intelligence research center (CF2R) is not “not sure that Gérald Darmanin knows what he is talking about”.

Ecoterrorism originated in the United Kingdom in the 1970s, with the emergence of the ALF: theAnimal Liberation Front (Animal Liberation Front), which promotes violent and illegal actions to defend animals. Quickly, this movement was exported to the United States, where was also founded in 1992 the Earth Liberation Front (ELF, Earth Liberation Front).

The two fights, for animal rights on the one hand, for nature and the climate on the other, constitute to this day the two “branches” of ecoterrorism. Liberation of animals in laboratories, planting bombs, sending letter bombs… In the United States, according to a 2013 Homeland Security report, “239 fires and bomb attacks were committed by environmental or animal rights extremists between 1995 and 2010. 54.8% of these acts were committed in the name of nature rights and 45.2% in the name of animal rights.” “They did significant damage, major sabotage, sometimes with the death of men”, says Eric Denécé. Organizations identified as eco-terrorists are also on the blacklist of both countries. The FBI and Scotland Yard have also set up specific working cells on the subject, the US Homeland Security report concluding that “environmental and animal rights extremists are a threat to American public safety”.

In France, despite attempts to set up in the mid-2000s, the movement did not take hold. “Never”, there has been ecoterrorism in France, assures Eric Denécé, author in 2016 of Ecoterrorism! Anti-globalization, ecology, animalism: from protest to violence. Besides, the Penal Code does not define ecoterrorism in particular but terrorism in general, as offenses “in relation to an individual or collective enterprise aimed at seriously disturbing public order by intimidation or terror”.

However, “the question arises, because there is a frustration among activists, which leads to a phenomenon of radicalization”, according to the researcher. But we must not confuse everything, he defends, placing the actions of environmental radicals on a continuum from civil disobedience to violent action.“We destroy private property, we attack property”list Eric Denécé, citing for example the sabotage of 5G antennas, the mowers of GMOs or the case of the Techniplast factory, in Limonest, in the Rhône, factory manufacturing cages for animals, which had been set on fire in April 2007. We can add to this the fire which had affected the Charles River laboratory, still in the Rhône, which was also set on fire.

In both cases, signs of the ALF had been found on the spot and the anti-terrorist section of the Paris prosecutor’s office had been seized at the time. But never one of these actions has resulted in victims, and none is considered eco-terrorist. “In France, for the moment, the actions perpetrated by these radical groups have not reached the frequency and degree of gravity of what can be observed in the United States or Great Britain. We cannot speak from this point of view of ecoterrorism”abounds Eddy Fougier in review Security and strategy.

Ecoterrorism is therefore not a social reality in France. However, the authorities remain vigilant to this phenomenon, worried about the radicalization of environmental actions. On franceinfo, Laurent Nuñez, prefect of police of Paris, indicates that the term is “used” in the intelligence services and that there is “a few dozen individuals who are followed for violent radicalization, including in movements that defend causes that they say are environmentalists”. However, the National Anti-Terrorist Prosecutor’s Office confirms “have no proceedings in progress” regarding eco-terrorism.