Monday, 6 December 2010

Why did the activists stop the nuclear waste train?

We find it absurd to transport 123 tons of highly radioactive waste across France and Germany to get them to a storage place that doesn’t offer any more guarantees compared to where the waste was stored in the first place. We understand the demand for return of the waste in their country of origin, from associations which fought from the beginning to prevent the arrival of these radioactive materials.

This transport of nuclear materials was also the most radioactive ever made: it contained twice the radioactivity released during the Chernobyl accident in 1986. Such convoys expose populations present along the path to excessive risks, both to their lives in the short-term but also long-term health … as is the case in Savoy with the transport of Italian waste two years ago. It was therefore logical to oppose this transport as well as all other trains with nuclear waste. It was also to express solidarity with the people of Germany who are not resigned to see their land contaminated forever.

Why stop the train?
This form of action is part of a movement of civil disobedience. This direct action was admittedly illegal from the standpoint of the law, but legitimate when compared to the danger and opacity of the nuclear industry.
It was also an act of solidarity and encouragement for antinuclear activists in Germany who were preparing to act in similar ways, a means to denounce the nuclear issue at the European level.

Radioactivity has no boundaries neither does our resistance!
This mode of action is of course not the only one but against the authoritarianism and the opacity of the nuclear industry it became necessary to choose this type of action. It definitely felt more of a necessity than a choice, which leads us to prefer a non-violent direct action to another mode of action.

A well planned action
Obviously, this was an action that was planned to be carried out safely.
Every precaution was taken not to put ourselves in danger with regards to the train. Thus, it is only when we saw that the train had stopped on the track (about a kilometre away) that the ten of us started the blockade. We very quickly set up under the rails, metal arm tubes on which five of us were locked on and we lit flares for the train driver to see us like we could see the lights on the train.

We then placed the banners indicating that the main message for our friends in Germany: "Our resistance knows no borders. Castor 2010, the first act. "
As with all such actions, the goal was not having to physically confront the police.
Without really believing it, we would have liked to maintain the presence of support for those doing physical lock-ons. This wasn’t possible.

The Law Enforcement
The police arrived within minutes by waves accompanied by a representative of the SNCF, then the mobile police and finally, the CRS (French riot police) who left the train while it was running slowly or close to us.
The police started removing the activists from the tracks that were not locked-on as well as journalists, and only then the CRS started to be interested in those who were locked on. They then put up blue tarpaulins to prevent people from seeing what was happening.

Freeing the blockaders
After they suddenly realised while trying to manually unlock the militants that it was not possible, the CRS quickly used a Circular saw with a big grinder engine, for cutting metal tubes one by one. It was quite impressive and we did not know how it was going to finish.
The CRS were very tense and wanted to extract us as soon as possible to allow the train to leave. This eagerness was detrimental to our security.
While we were locked-on under the tracks, it was their responsibility to free us without harming us.

From the beginning, the CRS were violent not only towards the blockaders but all other witnesses who were quickly told/forced to leave.
In addition to putting us under psychological pressure for more than two hours, police deliberately injured three of us when cutting the tubes.

Despite the howls of pain associated with burns, the CRS continued like nothing had happened… After a while they stopped for just a few seconds, before resuming with a vengeance, pouring just a little bottled water. It was only when firemen were present for the last person that water was used in sufficient quantity to cool the tubes.
We were all injured during the police operation, three seriously: two of us had third degree burns on the left hand. The other person had two severed tendons in his hand and had to undergo surgery the next day.

Firemen transported three of us to the hospital. Custody had been filed for two upon arrival at the University Hospital in Caen, (before being treated by doctors). The third was transferred to another hospital for surgery.
Those treated on the spot were then transferred to the police station and placed in holding cells like the four others arrested at the scene of the blockade. The next day we were released to be brought before the prosecutor and the judge.

The last, he was arrested and put into custody immediately when discharged from hospital on Sunday evening two days after the action to be brought before the prosecutor and the judge the following day.
The condition of the wounded remains unresolved; the recovery will be long and the burned people will have to have skin grafts.

We could feel pressure coming “from above” in the Caen Court. The bail conditions the prosecution asked for were € 5000 to be handed in court by each of the seven activists before Monday, 15th November in order to avoid custody until trial, 8th December 2010. In the end, €16 500 were required in total.

This bond seems somewhat absurd, the prosecution has admitted our desire for everyone to be present at trial, while the judicial review, especially with such a financial guarantee was intended precisely to ensure the presence of the accused at trial. This demonstrates a willingness to put pressure on us or to slow the preparation of our defence as we had to raise this huge sum to start with, while the court was convened in just a month.
We expected to find ourselves in court; it is also often the case in this kind of action but not in such conditions.

The police
It is scandalous that in a non-violent action, the police deliberately cause injury to activists. It is for this reason that we have already filed a complaint against persons unknown “for aggravated violence”. Similarly, we have started a procedure with the CNDS (the police of the police).
The will of the government and the nuclear lobby was passing the convoy at all costs. We could see they were willing to wound, to hurt, to use violence. Was this what they had to hide behind the tarpaulins stretched out around the blockade?
Our goal now is to make them seriously regret their behaviour.

Political stand 

Who are we? What we stand for?
A few years ago, people involved in the Non-violent antinuclear Action group (GANVA in French) considered it important to draft a charter to consolidate a little bit positions that were until then more or less made up as they went along.

This affinity group is informal and autonomous without any legal existence.
It brings together men and women who wish to object strongly to nuclear power (including for military use). We can use the broad spectrum of non-violent direct actions and disobedience if they are declared and don’t harm people.

We reject authoritarianism and violence from both the state and the nuclear industry, so we exclude these principles in our operations and our actions.

Our core values are non-violence, solidarity and collective self-organisation.
At the end of 2010, we feel that we must go further into details. We recognise the diversity of group members and therefore we are not trying to write an ideology that should guide us.
Also, many in the group also act differently or similarly.

Some political positions (especially to political parties):
We are moving, above all, the idea of taking concrete action, to try to regain the power to interfere with the system that has allowed to develop nuclear and allowing it to continue.

These tools are those of the non-violent direct action and civil disobedience.
Linked to this, we attach great importance to disseminate the culture of self-organisation. The output of nuclear power is not only a technical issue or ecological, it is above all a democratic issue. And democracy for us is not that which is called “representative”.

However we do not want to be giving lessons. We are not political or policy experts, but we feel that a conflictual situation is much needed. This conflict that sometimes we create, restart or show must be taken up by a lot more people, by other actions, by direct questioning and even court cases. If someone can help to change things in an institution that they belong to, why not? We are not campaigning for that but everyone with the tools they dispose of can help us with nuclear phase out and to change the repressive system that we are in.

Anti nuclear activists on trial in Caen, Normandy the 8 Dec

Come and support the activists who blockaded the CASTOR train in Caen, France.  Their trial is next Wednesday 8 December.  They'll be a film/debate the night before and a concert on the Wednesday night.  Free accommodation can be provided, for more info or send me an email.  The website (in French and German) apart from this leaflet:

Please send around to everyone and anyone.

Hope to see you at the trial!