The public meeting, organized on the evening of this Friday, October 7, was transformed, from the outset, into a dialogue of the deaf.
That was to be expected. Organized in the Stevenson room of Saint-Jean-du-Gard, on the evening of this Friday, October 7, the information meeting concerning the installation of the Foreign Legion in the old farm of Banner-bas is immediately revealed tense, stormy. Outside, the messages written on panels already set the tone: “The Legion, no thanks! The land to the peasants!”, “We want blood sausage and slippers! Not boots and blood! Death is your profession!”, etc.
It’s 6:10 p.m. The opponents are massed at the bottom, when Lieutenant-Colonel Sébastien Guillot, second in command of the 2nd Foreign Infantry Regiment of Nîmes, opens the ban: “When we arrive somewhere, we introduce ourselves….” The response of an opponent bursts out: “Me, it’s Jules. Let me introduce myself!” Right away, as the senior officer tries to speak, heckling ensues. “If you want to do that, you go out,” says the soldier calmly. A voice rises again: “Ah, no! Already, you have come through in force. It is you who are leaving, not us.” While some are calling for silence, anti-militarist chants are heard, followed by a “Soldiers out!” The lieutenant-colonel looks gray: “In any case, I thank you for the few soldiers that I commanded and who died for the fatherland.”
The fire alarm is triggered
The tension does not go down. A Saint-Jeannais, favorable to the installation in the project, gets angry. The voice of another opponent resounds: “We wanted to hear them before; now it’s too late!” The songs pick up again. We recognize “The Deserter”.
The hubbub persists, but the project, as presented at Safer, is projected into the room. Its two major characteristics are recalled: “Having a place of residence, training and ventilation for the sections of the 2e REI” (“to come and breathe fresh air”, specifies the second in command) and “Having a place dedicated to families, for the benefit of the condition of the staff” (for example, to organize short stays, the time of a weekend). To a woman who asks if she will still be able to walk around, Sébastien Guillot replies: “These are your paths. We are not going to barricade them.” Shortly after, he assures us that “we will not use ammunition on the banner farm”. At that moment, the fire alarm goes off. No one speaks anymore. It’s 6:30 p.m. We think the discussion will end there…
Five candidates to exploit the land
The question concerning the agricultural exploitation of the lands of the farm of Banner-Bas did not find an answer. Responding to an activist from the Confédération paysanne, Lieutenant-Colonel Guillot nevertheless recalls, to the chagrin of opponents, that the seven hectares will not be the subject of sustainable agriculture, “because the buildings have no vocation agricultural”. And to add: “We have a preference to be able to use the land from time to time.” Thus, a neighboring operator regrets not having been selected to plant vines there. “What are you going to do?” Asks a participant in the meeting. “We are awaiting the proposal from Safer, answers number 2 of the 2nd REI. At the beginning of November, a farmer will be appointed for an agricultural lease.” To hear it, “five candidates” are in the running to exploit the land of the farm of the legionnaires.
Finally, when the siren is silent, the exchanges resume. On the giant screen, everyone can read that “there will be no maneuvers or shooting (blank) in this area”. According to the specifications of Safer, integrated into the deed of sale, shooting is prohibited for ten years. The heckling of opponents persists and Lieutenant-Colonel Mazel, deputy to General Ozanne, commanding the 6th Light Armored Brigade, gets annoyed: “The farm hasn’t been sold for three years and now that we’ve bought it, there are objections…”
The Legion will remain in contact with the town hall
Calm finally settles in the Stevenson room, but the opponents do not let go, despite the military’s attempts to explain. “Are you aware that maneuvers can shock hikers who will pass there, or on the way to Stevenson?” Asks a Cévennes. “No”, reacts the officer of the 2e REI. “Because when we patrol Paris, as part of Operation Sentinel, people are not afraid of us.”
Concerns therefore persist. Lieutenant-Colonel Mazel wants to be reassuring by indicating that “as soon as we leave the Banner compound, the local authorities are notified”. The doubt of the opponents remains whole. Nothing works. Even the words of the mayor, Michel Ruas, are a blank: “We have a municipal website on which you will be informed of events that are happening. When they do extraordinary things, they will warn us.” It’s 7:30 p.m. The meeting ends. Everyone sticks to their positions.