“Ecoterrorism”, a pretext word against the ecological fight

The 5,000 citizenselected officials and peasants, who demonstrated on October 29 and 30 against the Deux-Sèvres mega-basins, would have modus operandi that fall within the scope of eco-terrorism », asserted, earlier this week, Gérald Darmanin. With this adjective, the Minister of the Interior has taken a new step in indecency. He insults the environmental movement while flouting the memory of recent victims of jihadism.

Politicians on the left may have been outraged — Clementine Autain mentioned a smoke screen », Olivier Faure a hysterization of the debate » —, the minister was stubborn. He repeated the term in other interventions and warned that the firm hand of the state will be there ».

In a few days, the offensive against environmental activists took on considerable proportions. Word ecoterrorism » has become commonplace by becoming one element of language among others Renaissance deputies and editorial writers of right.

Destruction of property is not violence »

On France newsthe new prefect of police Laurent Nuñez – the ex-right arm of Christophe Castaner during the repression of yellow vests – stated that several individuals develop a form of violent radicalism around the environmental cause » and have a enormous violent potential ». A certain number of them are registered S in the same way as Islamist terrorists. We must be careful and we will continue to be vigilant »he added.

These declarations open the way to fierce repression even though they have no legal or semantic basis. By losing the sense of language, the authorities lose the link with reality.

Indeed, the official definition of terrorism does not match well with the actions of sabotage and the clashes of last weekend. The Larousse defines terrorism as a set of acts of violence (attacks, hostage-taking, etc.) committed by an organization or an individual to create a climate of insecurity, to blackmail a government, to satisfy hatred towards a community, a country or a system ».

Scarecrow delivery to gendarmes in Notre-Dame-des-Landes, May 20, 2018. © Julie Lallouët-Geffroy and Nicolas de La Casinière / Reporterre

In France, ecoterrorism currently looks like a pure fantasy. Recently, the Grenoble prosecutor wanted to seize the national anti-terrorist prosecutor’s office against the militants who attacked the relay antennas and 5G. In vain, justice having always refused to resume these cases.

For many personalities such as the jurist Vanessa Codaccioni or the lawyer Raphaël Kempf, the use of the term ecoterrorism » actually serves another purpose. It is not a question of describing a reality, but of depoliticizing the action of activists by criminalizing them, even by pathologizing them.

The history of this word is enlightening on this point. It developed, at the turn of the 2000s, and was defined by the FBI immediately after the vote Patriot Act in the United States, following the attacks on the World Trade Center. As the researcher Romain Huret pointed out on Reporterre, at the time, we did not want to hear any criticism and even less that of capitalism. The authorities have put in place a repressive anti-terrorist arsenal to attack political activists. Massive means of surveillance were deployed and the authorities did everything to destabilize the pacifist left, which included many ecologists. ».

A company to make people forget climate crimes »

The parallel with the current situation is striking. Attac sees in the recent declarations of Gérald Darmanin the same counter-insurgency methods: This indecent discursive strategy looks like a move to gloss over climate crimes and government accountability »writes the association in a statement.

Police forces deployed to counter opponents of the Deux-Sèvres mega-basins, October 29 and 30, 2022.

Activists fear that this term justifies the establishment of a low intensity war against environmentalists. They remind us that manifesting is a constitutional right while the state had ban the demonstration and sent to them an army » of more than 1,500 gendarmes.

Gradually, the state is radicalized. The current sequence is part of a long authoritarian drift that we have described for several years, here Where the. In 2019, Reporterre revealed that the government was mobilizing anti-terrorism services against Macron’s portrait dropouts. In 2020, the environmental media also showed how methods of counterterrorism had been deployed for the judicial investigation against anti-nuclear activists in Bure (Meuse) with dozens of people wiretapped, 85,000 conversations intercepted and sixteen years of cumulative listening time.

Faced with these offensives, the social and environmental movement must stick together, many activists now believe. It is essential to come together », says Attac so as not to fall into the pitfall of division. In the book For climate justice, strategies in motion (The links that liberate2021), coordinated by Vincent Gay and Nicolas Haeringer, the authors recall the importance of the plurality of modes of action and of respect between the different branches of the environmental movement, the more civic-minded one and the more radical one:

The plural nature of the repertoire of actions within the climate cause therefore calls for respect for the diversity of tactics. This last notion, stemming from the anti-globalization movement, means that despite the differences that may exist between mobilized people and groups, we consider that we are part of a vast common movement, that it is therefore not a question of denouncing each other, but of act, if possible together, and if not separately. »

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“Ecoterrorism”, a pretext word against the ecological fight