(Saïx) Thousands of opponents of a motorway in the south-west of France demonstrated on Saturday to denounce a project which they consider contradictory with the climate emergency, during a weekend of festive mobilization, but under high surveillance.

French authorities have closely followed this new gathering of environmentalists, which comes nearly a month after a demonstration against the creation of mega water reserves, in another department in western France, and which had turned to confrontation between law enforcement and opponents. Three people were seriously injured and a lively controversy over the excessive use of force then broke out.

Dancing to the rhythm of percussion, sometimes in the rain, around 8,200 people according to the organizers, 4,500 according to the prefecture, walked all afternoon on paths and through the woods, following part of the route of the future A69 motorway.

Some demonstrators held up banners: “Less energy, fewer cars, less tar”, or “A69, a dead-end highway that will end up spinning”.

Several elected officials oppose the highway project, including the environmental deputy (EELV) Julien Bayou who called it “anachronistic”. “It’s a project that dates back to the 90s, which thinks of the territory and the development of the territory only with the car and the highways. And in fact that is no longer possible! “, declared to AFP Sandrine Rousseau, ecologist deputy, on the spot, estimating that “there is really no need for an additional highway”.

Earlier, during a press conference, the environmental associations including the collective The way is free, Extinction Rebellion, the Peasant Confederation and the Uprisings of the Earth (SLT), organizers of the demonstration, demanded “the immediate stop of the construction site.

Their representatives recalled their proposal for the development of the existing road and denounced the loss of agricultural land or biodiversity that the construction of this 53 km stretch of highway would entail.

Atosca, private concessionaire of the A69, considers this project “exemplary” for the environment or employment. Regarding agricultural land, the planned footprint has been reduced from 380 to 300 hectares, according to its general manager Martial Gerlinger.

The French Ministry of Transport clarified on Friday that a review of the seven motorway projects in progress had been requested as early as January, “in view of current issues” relating to the environment.

“The A69 project is no exception to this review process”, adds the ministry but “the work has started, and a contract binding the State has been signed with the concessionaire”.

The Tarn department, where the event is taking place, has already been bereaved during a previous mobilization against a dam project in 2014.

A 21-year-old environmental activist, Rémi Fraisse, was found dead on the Sivens dam site, after opponents clashed with the police. Five months later, the project was abandoned in favor of a water reservoir reduced by half, and the government evacuated the site occupied for sixteen months by militants.