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Posted: septembre 18th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Texts in English | Commentaires fermés sur LEGAL FISSION

In November 2011, the Valognes-Stop-Castor collective issued a call for action to disrupt nuclear industry routine. This specified that a camp would be set up for people wanting to help block a Castor freight train, (Castor stands for « cask for storage and transport of radioactive material »), en route from the reprocessing factory at La Hague at the northern tip of Normandy to the nuclear waste storage site at Gorleben in Germany, where tens of thousands of activists awaited, as they had done every year for the past twenty or so.

Like the three defendants standing trial at Cherbourg on 9th October 2012, several hundred of us answered this call and travelled to the northern tip of Normandy, known as the Nuclear Peninsula, with the intention of taking part in a concrete act of opposition to the nuclear industry. At that time, the struggle against nuclear power seemed to have reached a standstill. Facile slogans; repetitive, dully ritual demonstrations; unofficial scientific experts pitched against official scientific experts to no effect; derisory alternative energy proposals… Over the years, the anti-nuclear movement had morphed into a marketing exercise.

Then Fukushima happened. That disaster came as a reminder that the most horrendous aspects of nuclear energy are its « sustainable » dispossession of human living conditions and its capacity for stifling aspirations to freedom. What do you call life with a dosimeter or a Geiger counter strung round your neck?

By making the routine nature of nuclear waste transport visible, the action at Valognes was designed to remind us that, especially in northern Normandy1, the nuclear industry holds ordinary people under a point-blank threat. It was also intended to show that it is possible to draw on a tradition of collective and public direct action such as the anti-nuclear movement once aimed at power station building sites (at Plogoff in Brittany, Chooz in the French Ardennes, Golfech in Gascony; against the Superphénix fast breeder reactor at Creys-Malville, at Le Carnet and of course at Flamanville just nearby).

One consequence was that the camp at Valognes set out to dispel police and media clichés about masked hooligans and to publicize the nature of its actions as widely as possible. But the spectacular nature of the event was a trap. We slipped from organizing a public meeting to issuing a press release; from talking to local papers to appearing on national evening news. And in the process of explaining what we were to doing, we moved into advertising it. This slippage produced a need for spokespeople. Three people were landed with having to do this awkward job. And so were propelled into the heart of a facile, stupid-making system, under which the success of a political undertaking and the very existence of a political movement are judged according to the extent of media coverage generated.

Media exposure led to TV images, which the law is now using as evidence that the movement’s spokespeople are its leaders – and that it has leaders. The State Prosecutor’s argument is as follows: the space occupied by the defendants in the media correlates with their leadership role in the Valognes-Stop-Castor collective, making them responsible for setting up the camp and for coordinating various in-situ actions that the law classifies as misdemeanours. In order to establish its case and in order to manufacture the three defendants it needs, the judiciary has atomized our movement. It has set up scapegoats, as it does daily throughout France in every law court. The purpose is not really to criminalize the public expression of a political argument, but to protect private property and the interests of the State. Nothing new beneath the green sun of a society that is among other things a nuclear one. In this instance, French Railways are claiming reimbursement of 163,000 euros worth of damage to a railway line. And the French State, a world-class producer and exporter of nuclear energy, wants to be able to go about its flourishing trade as peacefully as it always has, with an obedient public standing by.

Valognes was an attempt to bust out of the bunker. It was meant to be a start. A few months later, a meeting held at Le Chefresne, a few dozen miles south in the same department of La Manche, invited anti-nuclear activists to join an established resistance movement against the new Cotentin-Maine high-tension line. This time, the repression was brutal. Serious casualties. One three-month prison sentence, without suspension. Since which, a succession of participants in Le Chefresne Assembly meetings been charged.

These charges are clearly a response to the many disruptions against pylon building sites in recent months, and more especially since the action at Valognes… Our collective attempts at organizing have not slowed the nuclear industry’s steamrolling and the new French government is in no way less arrogant than its predecessor.2 But our actions have established the premises for renewed opposition to nuclear power in France. One of these premises is « citizens » organizations and their illusions must be excluded. Another is that the State cannot be recognized as as a valid interlocutor for negotiating an end to nuclear power in France. Finally, we know that our focus on horizontal, hierarchical decision-making processes is what made collective direct action possible.

Neither the provincial theatre of the courthouse nor the pace of the law can compel us to forget the basis of what was done at Valognes, in a part of France shot through with cancer, undermined by the unsaid, where, more than anywhere else, the nuclear industry provides people with both a living and a dying.

In solidarity with the all defendants in the Nuclear Peninsula, this is a call to meet outside the law courts in Cherbourg in support of the Valognes Three, so that their trial is thrown open to wider debate and does not remain hidden away behind the closed doors of the law.

Collective supporting those charged in the Nuclear Peninsula

1 Northern Normandy is one of the most nuclear places in the world: at La Hague a reprocessing centre recycles the everyday disaster of nuclear waste production and stores spent fuel from about sixty reactors; at Flamanville, a new European Pressurized Water Reactor (EPR) is being built, supposedly a standard-setter for future French and international power stations that is already discredited; in Cherbourg, there is a military arsenal designed to spread atomic terror round the planet; at Diulleville, a nuclear waste storage site that is seeping into the aquifer below; and for miles around a land criss-crossed and scarred by high tension lines designed to feed growing competition in the international energy market.
2 Within a few months it appointed Cazeneuve, local Cherbourg MP and a well-known friend to the nuclear industry, as government spokesman. It re-launched research on a fourth generation fast-breeder reactor called Astrid, made the preservation of existing nuclear power stations official policy, announced the start of the world’s largest uranium mining operation at Imuraren in Niger, approved further developed of the fourth-generation EPR nuclear power stations in France and abroad as well as pursuing the Cotentin-Maine high-tension line building plan.

The three defendants have been summoned to court on 9th October at 10 am in Cherbourg. They face the following charges:

  • Party to the destruction of private property by means dangerous to human beings.

  • Instrumental in provoking a gathering of several hundred people, some of them armed.

  • Organizing a prohibited public demonstration.

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