On December 10th, at around 6 p.m., 200 environmental activists suddenly stormed and “invaded” a Lafarge company cement factory of La Malle in Bouc-Bel-Air in the Bouches-du-Rhone, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region in Southern France. Infrastructure at the plant was reportedly attacked using a variety of methods, including: sabotage of incinerators and electrical systems and devices; cable cutting; bags of cement cut open and spilled; damage to vehicles and construction equipment; damaged windows; and graffiti spraying. Environmentalist activists said local air pollution was the main cause behind their attack. Photos from the “Action Lafarge” activist group.
Lafarge, part of the Holcim conglomerate group, is one of the biggest polluters and producers of CO2 in France. As well, due to their payments to the Islamic State (ISIS) and the al-Nusra Front between 2013 and 2014 for the protection of its cement operations in Syria, they have been convicted of financing terrorism and complicity in crimes against humanity. In 2015, Lafarge merged with Holcim, and a new company was formed under the name Lafarge-Holcim. It was renamed Holcim Group in 2021. In regards to the Syria terrorism financing case, on October 17, 2022, the United States Department of Justice reached a $777.8 million criminal plea agreement with Lafarge in the case. Executives with Lafarge agreed to the deal after paying $5.92 million to Islamic State and al-Nusra Front leaders and urging them to help the company keep its production facilities running, according to a company spokesman and law enforcement officials. In Bouc-Bel-Air specifically, they have reportedly contributed to industrial waste and local pollution, which have been denounced by the press and residents in the past, to no avail or regulatory response.
Yesterday 200 people invaded and disabled the Lafarge cement plant of La Malle in Bouc-Bel-Air in the Bouches-du-Rhône. pic.twitter.com/w6saCzugi9
— Ill Will (@illwilleditions) December 11, 2022
Seemingly, this direct action event was coordinated by a group named “Action Lafarge”. Their contact information and seemingly only publishing method is an email address registered with the “riseup” domain, a volunteer-run collective that provides secure email, email lists, a VPN service, online chat, and other online services for anonymity. For the past three years, more direct action events targeting Lafarge-Holcim have emerged in both France and Switzerland: protection and blockades in 2020, occupations and sabotage in 2021, and action against quarries and installations in both countries’ hillside areas.
The group said this in response to the question “Why target Lafarge?” published by MIA:
“The Lafarge Holcim group, with its billions of turnover, does not shrink from anything to continue its insane race for profit, and this in disregard of all the ecological and social consequences generated. Prosecuted in several countries, Lafarge and its executives have demonstrated their cynicism through their involvement in the financing of the Islamic State in Syria. Sentenced by the United States in October 2022, to 778 million dollars for supporting Daesh (ISIS), they are still under investigation in France for complicity in war crimes against humanity. In this case, the succession of tactical choices made by the French state, through exchanges between the DGSE and Lafarge, demonstrate once again that the proper functioning of capitalism requires that the state and industrialists work together.
To extract the rock under the protection of the State even if it means feeding the war. To sell the cement to rebuild what the wars have demolished. And in the process, destroying our living conditions and our environments to build a world of concrete and death, whether it is made of greenwashing based on carbon neutrality or low-carbon cements produced by incinerating waste.
From the extraction of sand, to the production of cement and concrete, and to the large useless projects, the whole chain of the construction industry represents an ecological disaster. The construction sector, from its production chain to its use, is responsible for 39% of CO2 emissions worldwide.
Here in Bouc-Bel-Air the company has never hesitated to lobby to exceed the environmental standards for dust and sulfur oxides set by the European Union. Of the 50 most polluting sites in France, 20 are cement plants, including this one, which produces more than 444,464 tons of CO2 per year and feeds its kilns with thousands of old tires and all kinds of toxic waste.
In our landscapes as well as in our imagination, concrete has become the norm under the pressure of lobbies and the complicity of public authorities. It is at the heart of the most absurd projects of the last decade: the Greater Paris and 2024 Olympic Games construction sites, Notre-Dames-des-Landes airport, the extension of the Château-Gontier quarry in Mayenne, or a few kilometers from here, the concreting of agricultural land in Pertuis….
Since the government is focused on its resources and its big projects, since it even invents the term of eco-terrorism to legitimize its tracking of environmental activists, since nothing stops them today, we will stop them ourselves. Putting in check by adequate means the ecocidal projects of land development and destroying the infrastructure that makes them possible are the only options to make the world desirable again.
We do not want colonial eco-capitalism, war economy or a cynical and manipulative ecological transition. That is why we attacked Lafarge-Holcim today.”
François Petry, managing director of the cement manufacturer, denied the environmentalists’ allegations of pollution and insisted that the factory, like all of the company’s plants, uses state-of-art environmentally friendly technology.
The factory could remain out of operation for several weeks due to the damage caused. An investigation was launched by the public prosecutor in Marseille reportedly, and Lafarge has filed a complaint.