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The Dissolution of the ‘Soulèvement de la Terre’, France

Alice Huaut

June 29th, 2023


A Radical Environmental Movement


“Soulèvement de la Terre” can be translated into the Uprising of the Earth. This movement is made up of various environmental and farming organizations, on the left and the far left, such as the Confédération Paysanne, the Alternatiba or Attac associations, farms scattered all over France, researchers, and a few personalities, such as science fiction writer, Alain Damasio.


The origins of the SLT movement came from the coalition of associations and individuals opposed to the government constructing huge water reservoirs in the commune of the Deux-Sèvres in Sainte-Soline. The members of the SLT movement advocate for a sustainable water storage strategy benefiting individuals rather than large agricultural industries. 


According to the Swedish theorist and activist, Andreas Malm, this is “the first fight in Europe against a project to adapt to climate change.” Indeed, it was not a question of opposing the construction of an airport or contesting the reopening of a coal mine but of expressing a disagreement on how to adapt to global warming.


SLT activists advocate for the production of accessible healthy food, guaranteeing fair remuneration. They explain on their website that they oppose farms transformed into factories, the artificialization of soils, and a campaign for a radical ecological change in our society– therefore, without a lengthy transitional phase. This movement has successfully connected different local initiatives with one another to support those seeking to contest state-led strategies in the face of climate change.


An Unjustified Dissolution


In October 2022, during a first demonstration against the reservoir construction in Sainte-Soline, the Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin, defined the violence caused by the clashes between police forces and protestors as "ecoterrorism." Then, on March 28th, 2023, the day after a demonstration against the construction of the reservoir, Gérald Darmanin accused the demonstration of an ultra-left initiative to bring down democracy. 


However, sympathizers of the SLT movement and numerous organizations maintain that the dissolution of the SLT movement is a threat to democracy. The use of the word, “ecoterrorism,” encourages the villainization of ecologists. According to Isabelle Sommier, a professor at the University of Paris 1 and a specialist in political violence, Sylvie Ollitrault, research director at the CNRS, a specialist in ecological activism, and Cyrille Bret, author of the book 'What is terrorism?,' no serious legal definition of terrorism applies, directly or indirectly, to the SLT. This term is inaccurately used as members of the SLT are not trying to kill other individuals and create an environment of terror. 


Lena Lazare, a key figure in the SLT movement, explains that the SLT uses a strategy of disarmament and defense. Damaging pipelines, greenhouses, or the McDonald's in Millau in 1999 was aimed at corporations, not people. The violence inflicted on material properties reflects the greater systemic violence of our economic system, leading straight toward unsustainable living conditions. 


Nevertheless, last Wednesday, June 21st, 2023, the government relied on article L212-1 of the Internal Security Code to provoke the dissolution of the SLT movement. This article allows for the repeal of associations causing armed demonstrations or violent acts against persons or property. 


The Effects of Dissolving the SLT


In their last letter to the government on April 7th of 2023, the lawyers of the SLT, masters Raphaël Kempf and Aïnoha Pascual, argued that the movement was not a declared association, but a horizontal and organic dynamic that brings together over 60,000 supporters. 


Furthermore, besides their argument regarding the illegal component of dissolving the SLT– which is not an association and therefore article L212-1 is not applicable– they questioned the government's ability and willingness to send all participants of the movements to jail. Nonetheless, the Ministry Council decided to declare the dissolution of the SLT.


Gatherings, Wednesday, June 28th, 2023


A flag with the logo of SLT was placed above the crowd on the statue of Place de la République. In opposition to the dissolution of SLT, a sea of flags– Extinction Rebellion, Solidaires, Attac, the French Socialist Party, the French Communist Party, the Anticapitalist Party– rose as hundreds of people gathered at Place de la République in Paris at 7 PM. On the same day, ninety other locations in France assembled people to protest against the decision to dissolve the SLT. 


The Paris gathering lasted over two and a half hours and, at its peak, assembled hundreds of people. Over 15 speakers, more than half being women, from various organizations and political parties– GreenPeace, Extinction Rebellion, Europe Ecologie Les Verts, NUPES, SLT lawyers– expressed their grievances concerning the death of Nahel, killed by the police the day before, and all agree that the movement SLT cannot be dissolved.


The crowd cheered for the speakers and chanted ‘No justice, no peace’ and ‘We won’t forget, we won’t pardon’. Lots of signs were scattered around the crowd, expressing people’s anger and indignation. Messages included phrases such as ‘soulèvement de Nanterre’, ‘dissolution of Darmanin,’ and ‘the living cannot be dissolved.’ A flag with the logo of SLT was placed above the crowd on the statue of Place de la République.


The Water Convoy, 18-27 of August 2023


Furthermore, unlike what authorities would like to believe, the call for gatherings all over France, on the 28th of June, 2023 is far from the last action taken by the SLT. A general tractor and bike convoy is expected in August 2023. The itinerary predicts departing, Friday 18, of August, from Sainte-Soline, to then arrive at the water agency in Orléans around August 24, and finally settle in Paris on August 26. This convoy of vehicles will recognize the generalized need for the sharing of water and land in continuity with the SLT protest against large water reservoirs.


Contestation Towards the State Council


Besides demonstrations, the SLT can contest the dissolution decree before the Council of State. According to, a specialist in civil liberties and a teacher at Sciences-Po Nicolas Hervieu, questioned by AFP– France-Press Agency, the Council of State can decide that even if there have been brutal, hostile remarks against the State or a government policy, this is a matter of freedom of expression and that it remains tolerable in the context of a democracy.

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