In Grenoble, six green activists face a Kafkaesque justice

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  • Grenoble (Isère), report

The case took a Kafkaesque turn. On the night of Friday 4 to Saturday 5 September 2020, six young people were arrested by the police near the Buisserate garden, in Saint-Martin-le-Vinoux, in Isère. They were then scouting to open an old abandoned building with the idea, they say, of occupying the place and making it “ a friendly space to protect the garden »Threatened by a real estate project. For a year, resistance has grown to prevent this piece of nature from disappearing under yet another concrete screed. We will tell you the story of this garden tomorrow.

But that night, the repressive machine got carried away. Arrested on the public highway at 3.30 a.m. by the anti-crime squad, searched and then taken into custody, the six activists spent nearly 60 hours at the Grenoble police station. In their cell, some were forcibly removed ADN, present on their masks or their clothes. In parallel with this police custody, five searches were carried out at the activists ‘homes, their parents’ homes or their shared apartments. Computers, keys USB, hard drive and cell phones have been sealed. Books of libertarian geographers Elisha Recluse and Pierre Kropotkine, authors of XIXe century, were confiscated as so many pieces of evidence. Brochures on vegan canteens too. From simple police custody to having entered private land, this story has turned into a demented judicial investigation where the suspects, aged 21 to 29, face up to five years in prison.

While that evening, they lived their first experience of repression, the six were criticized for participating in “ a criminal association with a view to committing degradation “. They were also prosecuted for “ attempt to set up in a meeting on someone else’s land “. After three nights spent at the police station, they were presented Monday, September 7 before an investigating judge and were subjected to a heavy judicial review: house arrest between 8 p.m. and 7 a.m., ban on contacting some and with each other, weekly check-in at the police station, obligation to work or to carry out training, prohibitions to go to the commune of Saint-Martin-le-Vinoux and to leave the national territory.

« Justice is based only on intentions that it fantasizes »

These restrictions on liberty could last for several months or even years until the trial, the date of which has not yet been set. The legal support collective CAR 38 which accompanies the placed in examinations denounces the « drift from the security state of emergency » : « That night, near the garden of the Buisserate, no degradation was committed. The offenses were not materialized. Justice is based only on intentions that it fantasizes, explains one of its members. It is totally disproportionate in view of the facts. »

How did we get here ? The context has surely played a role. The minister of the Interior and media like Current values do not stop bidding on « the wilderness of Grenoble ». For several years, the authorities have been facing a series of sabotages and fires, partly claimed by the anarchist milieu. However, that night, two hours before the arrests, a telephone antenna SFR rightly burnt down on the borders of Drôme and Isère, 70 kilometers from the gardens. The police, on the teeth, fearing a coordinated attack decided to patrol around the other antennas in the region. One of them is located not far from the gardens of the Buisserate, in the freight area of ​​the SNCF. The anti-crime squad then fell on the six young activists and arrested them. From there, everything happened: the detective story got underway.

The Grenoble courthouse.

During interrogations, investigators asked activists if they had participated « to events », without them understanding what events it was. Questions were raining down: « Are you part of the far left and the anarcholibertary movement ? » ; « Who is the group leader ? » ; « Are you against the system ? » During a search, a member of the judicial police asked a suspect to justify himself: « What is it about you that you are not an anarchist? ? » The young man took out of a wardrobe a campaign scarf of the former right-wing mayor Alain Carignon and brandished it with humor.

But nothing worked. Prosecutor Éric Vaillant – previously stationed in Cayenne, Guyana – felt he was facing him « professionals ». At the time of the arrests, the police found cards on them. SIM Lycamobile – which allow you to make calls without giving an identity. Their car’s license plate was hidden, a crowbar and a hammer were also found nearby. The pressure has gone up a notch. The national anti-terrorism prosecution in Paris was even called but refused to take up the investigation. The authorities also leaked the story in the local press and suggested that there was a link between the fire at the base stations and « the creation of a future zad », an expression that has never been used by activists.

« Stepping over a one-meter-high barrier is the only illegal act we have done »

In their cells, the six were completely « confused ». « From a moment it took such proportions that I lost all notion of reality, confides one of them to Reporterre. The investigators searched our privacy and tried to stick labels on us, to put us in boxes. It was very unsettling », he said.

All however have a clean criminal record and are unknown to the police. They qualify themselves as « primo militants » or from « baby activists ». Recently arrived in the fight, after readings and meetings, they began by mobilizing against a shopping center project on agricultural land at the gates of Grenoble before discovering the garden of the Buisserate.

Charlie [*] is an engineer by training and would like to convert to eco-construction. Agathe completed her master’s degree in French last year. Lise would like to make yurts, while Pierre has just finished his studies at Sciences Po Grenoble and now leads popular education workshops. Jim was on civic service last year at Alternatiba [1]. All say « in search of meaning » and committed to social justice and ecology.

  • Portraits of four of the indicted

They still struggle to take the measure of what happened to them. « Stepping over a meter-high barrier is the only illegal act we have done, Charlie, 29, explains. We also masked our license plate and used Lyca phones, but that’s nothing exceptional. These practices are becoming more and more widespread to avoid surveillance. At Greenpeace, where I campaigned when I was younger, activists did the same », he said.

« We are experiencing a form of dehumanization »

The judicial investigation has only just begun but behind the scenes of the Grenoble courthouse, the prosecution admits to having taken the wrong path. « The young people arrested do not have the profile of the arsonists of Grenoble », does it say in off at Reporterre. Besides, none of them had a lighter that night: they are all non-smokers. Whatever, the association of criminals and judicial controls are maintained. The investigation continues and the six friends can no longer see each other. Two couples are separated by invisible barriers. Their daily life is locked between check-ins at the police station and curfews. « We are living a form of dehumanization, they want to break our links and our commitments », they denounce.

Charlie’s car has even been sealed, with his keys, wallet and ID card inside. He has been unable to collect his things for over a month now. « It’s a way of punishing me, it’s quite humiliating and free », he said.

The order for placing the six defendants under judicial supervision.

On the defense side, legal professionals are also taken aback. « This case is completely far-fetched, gets angry Elsa Ghanassia, one of the defense lawyers. This type of pursuit is usually used for organized crime. It is the first time in Grenoble that activists have been confronted so violently. » This affair could augur the creation of a criminal association with a purely preventive purpose.

However, the six friends are not devastated. They want to keep fighting. « It’s annoying but I prefer to focus on what I can do, says one of them. All they gain is strengthening our resolve. To face repression, we must now develop a culture of resistance. »

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