Hundreds of individuals gathered in Sainte-Soline to protest the proposed construction of a new water reservoir.
Once fighting broke out at the construction site, many police vehicles were set ablaze.
The turmoil followed weeks of protests against President Emmanuel Macron’s pension changes in Paris and other cities.
At a massive western France protest, police deployed tear gas.
While unrelated to the protests over proposals to increase the state pension age, the most recent rally contributes to the rising popular outrage in France.
Notwithstanding a restriction on rallies in the region, opponents of the irrigation project in Sainte-Soline, near Poitiers, marched in huge numbers on Saturday.
The parade began late in the morning with at least 6,000 participants, according to local officials, but the organizers claim the number was 25,000.
They are protesting against the construction of one of the reservoirs in the Deux-Sèvres region, which is being constructed by a consortium of 400 farmers to minimize summer mains water use.
Last year’s record-breaking drought in France exacerbated debates around water resources. Artificial reservoirs, according to its proponents, might solve water shortages during future droughts.
Opponents, however, argue that the idea favors large agricultural producers for summer crop irrigation and would not directly benefit the local population.
“As the nation rises up to save pensions, we will rise up to defend water,” stated the organizers, who gathered under the slogan “Bassines non merci” – “No reservoirs, please.”
More than 3,000 police officers were deployed in Sainte-Soline, and at least 1,000 potentially violent protesters were there, according to officials.
When some reportedly launched fireworks and missiles as they neared the fenced-off construction site, security authorities shot tear gas to disperse them.
Many individuals have been arrested, and police have recovered weapons, including pétanque balls and butcher knives, according to officials.
President Macron said: “We will never yield to this level of brutality. We do not have the right to employ violence in a democracy.”
Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin described the violence against police officers in Sainte-Soline as incomprehensible and intolerable.
The massive demonstration demands a halt to the development.
Several Sainte-Soline protestors regarded this conflict as connected to the countrywide protests against President Macron and his intention to forcibly raise the retirement age.
Benoit Jaunet, a representative for the Deux-Sèvres Peasant Confederation, stated, “What is occurring now, this confluence of movements, is comparable to the struggle for water and pensions.”
“We face the same level of aggression. Our labor and water are being taken for the benefit of a few. And that is incorrect.”
The rally on Saturday follows similar marches in October.
In recent weeks, widespread protests have swept France. After days of skirmishes with protestors, the atmosphere in Paris and other cities was quieter overnight, but security forces remained on high alert.
The majority of demonstrations have been peaceful, but numerous French cities have experienced violent incidents this week. The entryway to the municipal hall in Bordeaux was set on fire. Tear gas was shot and hundreds of fires were started throughout Paris.
But, the Council of Europe, the continent’s foremost human rights organization, has warned that isolated instances of violence “cannot justify excessive use of force by state agents” or “deny peaceful demonstrators their right to freedom of assembly.”
The government’s use of constitutional authority to force reforms through without a vote in the National Assembly has encouraged protesters.
The state visit to France by King Charles III was postponed at the request of President Macron. On Sunday, the journey to Paris and Bordeaux was scheduled to begin.