Zone to Defend

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A barricade at the Notre-Dame-des-Landes ZAD. Banner reads: AGAINST THE AIRPORT AND ITS WORLD
One of the many structures that have been built on roads crossing through Notre-Dame-des-Landes ZAD. This one serves as a lookout tower in preparation of evictions by police.

The expression Zone to Defend or ZAD (French: zone à défendre) is a French neologism used to refer to a militant occupation that is intended to physically blockade a development project. The ZADs are organized particularly in areas with an ecological or agricultural dimension,[1] notably in the permanent blockade village against an airport in Notre-Dame-des-Landes. However the name has also been used by occupations in urban areas, e.g.: in Rouen,[2] in Décines-Charpieu.[3] One of the movement's first slogans was "ZADs everywhere" and though there are no official figures, in early 2016 there were estimated to have been between 10 and 15 ZADs across France.[4]


The acronym "ZAD" is a détournement of "deferred development area" (from French: "zone d'aménagement différé").[5] In 2015, the French term "zadiste" (English: Zadist) entered the 2016 edition of Le Petit Robert dictionary as "a militant occupying a ZAD to oppose a proposed development that would damage the environment."[6]


Appearing in France in the early 2010s, the term was first popularized during the opposition to the airport construction project in Notre-Dame-des-Landes, north of Nantes.[7] The ZAD movement has its origins in challenging large infrastructure projects in defense of the environment, local people's right to decide the future of their territories (at the price, if necessary, of conflict with state power) and the rejection of the capitalist economy. In France, the most famous antecedents of the ZAD movement are the Larzac struggle (1971-1981),[8] the protests against the proposed nuclear power plant at Creys-Malville, in Isère (1977), and at Plogoff in the 70s and 80s.[9]

The ZADs have multiplied in France after the failed eviction of the Notre-Dame-des-Landes commune in the autumn of 2012.[10] One of the first to be set up after the failure of the eviction of the ZAD was the ZAD Bouillons farm, near Rouen, occupied against a real estate project by the group Auchan beginning in the winter of 2012.[11] In addition to Notre-Dame-des-Landes ZAD, the best-known cases are those of the opposition to the Sivens dam project in the Tarn where the activist Rémi Fraisse was killed by the French police[12], at the Center Parks of the forest of Chambaran in Isère, and more recently against project Cigeo in Bure.[13]


  1. ^ [1] "A ZAD born in the fields near Agen", Reporterre, December 16, 2014
  2. ^ [2] "A day on urban Zad Rouen - evicted Friday morning", Reporterre, 7 November 2014
  3. ^ [3]"In Lyon, the first expulsion ZAD ... but the second still resists", Reporterre, January 11, 2014
  4. ^ [4]"Zones to Defend: developers face a new constraint",, 3 February 2016
  5. ^ [5] "How the word "Zadist" was built in the current language", Le Figaro, 7 February 2015
  6. ^ Le Petit Robert 2016
  7. ^ [6] "The country slingshots against the "unnecessary" projects", Le Monde, 30 June 2013
  8. ^ [7] "Notre-Dame-des-Landes is not the Larzac (even if it looks like)", Rue89, 17 November 2012
  9. ^ [8] "Notre-Dame-des-Landes dream of a solution to the Plogoff", L'OBS, 3 August 2013
  10. ^ [9] "In ZAD to another overview of environmental conflicts", 24 October 2015
  11. ^ [10] "The militants of Notre-Dame-des-Landes are trying to spread their movement", 10 May 2013
  12. ^
  13. ^ [11] "Notre-Dame-des-Landes inspired other protests", The Cross, 2 August 2013

See also[edit]