Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg speaks out in the support of Les Soulèvements de la Terre after it was banned in France.

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg wasted no time in throwing her support behind an environmental group shut down by French authorities.

The French government on Wednesday issued a decree outlawing Les Soulèvements de la Terre (SLT, Uprisings of the Earth), accusing the group of “fomenting violence in a series of recent demonstrations,” Agence France-Pressereported.

Thunberg, who was in Paris ahead of an ongoing summit on reforming the international financial system, quickly condemned the repressive move and called on others to oppose it.

“This is about the right to protest and this is about defending life,” Thunberg said at a press conference held by SLT members and supporters. “I hope there’ll be more people who stand up against these things that are happening now, and stand up for the right to protest,” added the 20-year-old campaigner.

SLT members denounced French President Emmanuel Macron’s neoliberal administration for banning their organization and urged people to take to the streets in dozens of cities nationwide.

According to AFP: “The dissolution procedure for SLT was launched in March after around 5,000 protesters battled with more than 3,000 police officers during a protest against a giant irrigation reservoir near Sainte-Soline in western France.”

Following Wednesday’s weekly cabinet meeting, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said that “under the claim of defending the preservation of the environment… [SLT] encourages sabotage and property damage, including with violence.” But as AFP noted, “Darmanin has drawn fire from left-wing opponents and rights groups for branding the actions of some protesters ‘eco-terrorism,’ noting that SLT’s dissolution is based on a new law targeting extremist ideologies.”

In a statement, Greenpeace France said that the law “should not be used in a context of civil disobedience, where the freedom of expression and assembly takes precedence.”

Macron’s crackdown on SLT’s effort to halt the construction of so-called “megabasins” – projects that opponents say enable agribusinesses to plunder groundwater resources – began amid his anti-democratic assault on the nation’s pension system.

In early April, several left-wing luminaries alarmed by France’s escalating repression of environmentalists and pension defenders signed a Progressive International petition expressing solidarity “with the French people in the face of violent crackdowns on popular protest and the criminalization of dissent by Emmanuel Macron’s government.”

As the petition states:

The French people have been striking and protesting against Macron’s government due to his cuts to their pension system, following a long string of neoliberal reforms that have been eroding living standards for workers in France for years. Macron’s pension cuts are opposed by the vast majority of the French people and are so unpopular Macron felt it necessary to bypass parliament to implement them. Over the course of these protests, the French police have acted with extreme violence against participants and made use of military-grade equipment against citizens, such as plastic grenades. The French government has encouraged this approach by the police and its spokespeople have attempted to legitimize the police violence by creating a false narrative in the media that the popular protests are led by ‘cop killers.’

Last weekend, the French government and the police chose to make an example of environmental protesters campaigning against the privatization of public water supplies in mega reservoirs to try to further this narrative. Government spokespeople named these environmental protestors as the same ‘cop killers’ who were leading the pension protests. When it came to the protest, police were deployed in large numbers and acted with extreme violence towards protestors, resulting in over 200 protestors suffering serious injuries, 40 protestors being physically disfigured, such as losing eyes, and two protestors being nearly killed. These two protestors are currently in a coma in a life-or-death situation. The police also refused to allow medical professionals access to treat the injured. Since the environmental protest last weekend, the French interior minister has declared he intends to proscribe and criminalize the environmental campaign group organizing the protest.

The extreme violence of the police and the criminalization by the interior minister are clearly aimed at suppressing the movement against the pension cuts. This is an unacceptable attack on the democratic freedoms and human rights of French citizens. We stand with the French people and support the victory of the movements against Macron’s pension cuts and against his privatization of water.

According to AFP, Greenpeace said Wednesday that “it would support SLT if it contested the dissolution decree before the State Council, which rules on the legality of French laws.”

Original source: https://www.commondreams.org