Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Anti Nuclear Protest in France

On 23rd November last, near the town of Valognes, towards the northern tip
of the Cherbourg peninsula in Normandy, 800 people took it into their
heads to delay a train full of nuclear waste, in which action they were
successful. For the first time in many years, the French anti-nuclear
movement was seeing direct action at a mass level. For the first time in
many years, the anti-nuclear movement was speaking without fear, in
response to the thousands of Germans who have been blocking the same
nuclear-waste train every year for more than twenty years.

This action, in the most densely “atomic” region of the most nuclear
country in the world, proved unacceptable to the authorities. Just as the
steady drip-feed of “incidents” in power stations and reprocessing plants
has always been hushed up, so too has any kind of opposition to the
nuclear industry.

Which is why, too, in the same part of northern Normandy, some six months
later, police were given free-rein to disperse the anti high-tension wire
camp at Montabot. The cost in human terms was twenty-five casualties, five
of them serious. Next came a tidal wave of court-cases against nuclear
opponents: five charged over the action at Valognes; a mayor (the mayor of
Le Chefresne) held on remand, provoking his resignation along with that of
his entire municipal council; not to mention many assorted convictions,
including one actual prison sentence, for people who taking part in the
battle against the Cotentin-Maine high-tension line; and many straight
summonses intended to intimidate.

A further trial is to be held at Cherbourg on 9th October 2012. The three
defendants are all people who spoke to the media during the action at
Valognes. This is an across-the-board first for all political struggles,
that the mere fact of answering reporters’ questions should be answerable
before the law. The charges are: “direct provocation leading to people
assembling to take up arms”; “organizing an illegal demonstration”; and
“party to the destruction of private property”.

And what is the evidence to corroborate charges of so serious a nature?
Two or three interviews before BFM TV (a news channel), Le Figaro (a
national newspaper of a conservative bent) or France Soir (an Internet
publication formerly a national newspaper), alleged to establish the
defendants as self-proclaimed leaders commanding a flock of sheep-like

This is not subtle. The intention is that events such as Valognes should
not in future be able to be supported by publicly formulated political
demands. Those who take part must be seen as thoughtless criminals,
irresponsible and crazy. There must always be seen to be leaders, in
denial of non-hierarchical modes of organization. The clear expression of
any sort of offensive, collective commitment is to be prevented. On our
side, the purpose is just that: to provide space for an insolent
connection between deed and thinking behind deed.

Beyond the dozy confines of a tribunal, such trials must always seem
preposterous. Which is why we are calling for the three defendants to be
overwhelmed by the broadest possible support. Why we are asking for you to
be present outside the court on the day of the trial.


Support the Valognes Three Collectives