47 years ago, Bertrand Verdier, Julien Savary and Jean-Claude Coustel founded the Committee for the Defense of the Banks, to fight against a project of expressways on the banks of the Garonne.
Last Friday, during the inauguration of the new banks of the Garonne, bordered by historic quays now restored identically, they discreetly regress part of the procession. Bertrand Verdier, Julien Savary and Jean-Claude Coustel can only be delighted to see the banks of the Garonne returned to the promenade. They, who, from 1974 to 1982, fought, with the ardor and determination of their youth, against the municipal expressway project which planned to link Empalot to the Twin Bridges. The configuration retained, two double tracks of 6 meters each, separated by a central median which required to encroach on the bed of the Garonne. It was to be the fastest route through Toulouse.
At the time, Bertrand Verdier, then a computer engineer and aged 25, lived on Quai de Tounis, in a former family home. “When I was a child, I used to swim in the Garonne, just in front,” he says. Also, when he heard about this project, “in the summer of 1974, while reading Capitole information, the town hall newspaper”, his song only turns around. He will immediately decide to mobilize. Activist of the Unified Socialist Party (PSU), the computer engineer then met Julien Savary, also a member of the PSU. Together, they founded the Committee for the Defense of the Banks of the Garonne. Julien Savary will be its first president. Without saving themselves, they distributed bulletins in letter boxes, and every Saturday, invite Toulouse residents to sign a petition, rue Saint-Rome. This is also how a third guy, Jean-Claude Coustel, will join them.
Environmentalists before their time
Ecologists without knowing it, their action manages to reach a large public. “Lawyers, jurists, the Church, academics and even old Toulouse residents” are committed to their side by signing the petition. “That’s how we won, remembers Julien Savary, otherwise we were too far ahead of our time”.
To protest, their committee also organizes actions of all kinds. “We wanted to show everything we could do on the banks, so we occupied the place by bringing it to life. There was a bank festival every year, a basketball court, a pétanque court … We planted trees, benches … ”A strong mobilization, which will ultimately get the better of the project, since in the municipal elections of 1983, after 8 years of struggle, all the candidate lists promise his abandonment, including that of Dominique Baudis who succeeds his father.
Last Friday, the former activists wished to recall their presence at the inauguration “that this development did not happen by chance. At the time, our main objective was to save the banks of the Garonne: we won ”, they conclude. Not a little proud, even 47 years later.