French police forcefully clear Sivens dam protest camp (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

Screenshot from Ruptly video
Fifteen people have been arrested after police in the south of France moved in to clear a protest camp at the Sivens dam project site. Authorities have forcefully evicted environmentalists occupying the site since 2013.

As Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve ordered the police to disperse protesters at the camp, Prime Minister Manuel Valls said the authorities would be “extremely firm” with anyone who did not “respect the rule of law.”

The site has been occupied by environmental activists, a group known as the “Zadistes”, since October 2013 and made world-wide headlines after a young man, Rémi Fraisse, was killed by a police stun grenade in October last year. His death sparked demonstrations nationwide. Police have twice removed people from the site, most recently in May 2014, but both times they returned.

The move followed a judgment by the regional council to replace the original planned reservoir with a smaller one. Tarn regional council agreed to reduce the size of the reservoir on Friday morning, following recommendations of an expert report in January to block the original size project, the fate of which has prompted violent clashes.

Following the decisions by regional authorities, some demonstrators moved out in the morning, on condition that police protect them from a counter-demonstration by farmers, who support the dam.

The farming community hopes that the dam will secure the water supply necessary for agricultural production at a much higher rate.

However, the environmentalists argue that the construction will result in irreversible ecological damage, in particular the destruction of several hectares of wetlands.

By early afternoon some 300 policemen from Sivens in the south of France moved in to clear the camp. By 2:00pm local time, the most radical activists refused to leave the site, grouping around the symbolic grave of the environmentalist Rémi Fraisse. Police were forced to arrest them, detaining 15 people, Le Monde reports. Some had to be taken away from the 10-meter-high self-erected watchtower.

After police secured the area, three dump trucks and a bulldozer entered the camp to begin the demolition of the huts and bungalows assembled by the activists. A bailiff also came to access the overall damage. Gendarmes will remain on the site to prevent any possible new occupation.