Clashes, tear gas as French police move in to break up environmentalist camp (VIDEO)

Nantes police have moved in to evict the ZAD anarchist commune at Notre-Dame-des-Landes early Monday morning. Some 2,500 gendarmes and police have been mobilized to carry out the eviction.

Hundreds of environmental squatters or ‘green jihadists’ have disobeyed an order to vacate an anarchist commune, initially established in 2008 to protest against a proposed airport near the western city of Nantes.

READ MORE: Police use water cannons, tear gas to break up anti-brutality protests in France

Following almost a decade of debates, in January French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced that France would abandon the airport project. However, up to 200 activists have remained on the land once reserved for the airport, calling it ZAD – Zone a Defendre (Zone to be Defended).

Authorities had ordered the activists to evacuate the area by March 31 or otherwise face eviction. Early on Monday morning, Minister of the Interior Gerard Collomb confirmed that the national gendarmerie was required to use force at 6am, after the activists once again refused to leave. Some 2,500 gendarmes and police officers, as well as bulldozers, are taking part in the eviction process.

The ministry of the interior has been keen to clarify that Monday's operation aims to remove "the most radical" ZAD squatters and its statement points out that some among the protesters had accepted an invitation to talks with the area prefect, and now have had "their situations regularized ... and have the government's support." It is understood that some will be permitted to engage in small agricultural projects in the area.

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