Anti-Nuclear Struggle in Comiso, Italy
In the early 1980s there was a key struggle against a U.S military base in Comiso, Sicily that was to house 112 nuclear missiles. The agreement
between the Italian and the U.S government was made in secret in 1979, but in spring 1981, the news began to leak out.
Immediately, there was anger over this obvious intrusion into the lives of the people in the area.
Large numbers of anarchists, students, workers and the unemployed organised into self-managed leagues. These leagues adopted a principle of
‘permanent conflict’ regarding the construction of the base, meaning that they would remain in opposition with it until the project was defeated, without thought of compromising.
High school students in Vittoria carried out strikes, using the time to discuss plans for action. The effects of the base became clearer as local peasants were evicted from their land to make room for missile test ranges. American and NATO officers reserved use of various hotels and other services and the Mafia (profiting from the concurrent expansion of prostitution and drugs) used intimidation and terror to frighten those opposed to the base.
The opposition culminated in a number of explosive situations and a huge demonstration to the outskirts of the base, where the cops made several violent attacks and pursued demonstrators for hours. The missile base eventually went in to operation in the mid-1980s, but was closed down in 1992.
See the Cosimo Dossier: www.omnipresence.mahost.org/comiso.htm
The occupations of Seabrook – 1976 & 1977
This began when, in 1974, some veteran peaceniks-turned-organic-farmers in New England successfully blocked construction of a proposed nuclear power plant in Montague, Massachusetts. In 1976, inspired by the success of a year-long plant occupation in Germany, they joined with other New Englanders to create the Clamshell Alliance. Clamshell’s immediate goal was to stop construction of a proposed nuclear power plant in Seabrook, New Hampshire.
Following a 24-hour occupation at the site of two proposed nuclear power plants in Seabrook, New Hampshire, 1414 people were arrested. Such civil
disobedience, organised by the New England-based Clamshell Alliance, became a model for anti-nuclear direct actions across the country.
Similar coalitions began springing up across America: the Palmetto alliance in South Carolina, Oystershell in Maryland, Sunflower in Kansas, and most famous of all, the Abalone Alliance in California, reacting originally to a completely insane plan to build a nuclear power plant at Diablo Canyon, almost directly on top of a major geographic fault line.
Those plants already approved eventually went online, including Seabrook Unit I, but Seabrook Unit II was never built.
Importantly though, the actions did succeed in delegitimising the idea of nuclear power. When the Three Mile Island plant melted down in 1979, it
hugely weakened the industry. While plans for Seabrook and Diablo Canyon weren’t cancelled, just about every other then-pending plan to build a
nuclear reactor was, and no new ones were proposed in the US for a quarter century. See www.marcuse.org/harold/pages/seabrook.htm
’90s Anti-Roads Protests in the UK – the M11 Link Road
The anti-roads movement in the 1990s in Britain, incorporating critiques of gentrification, car culture and the criminal justice bill, brought together people from varying backgrounds to defeat 400 out of 500 proposed roads projects. It included the defence of wild and urban areas, the merging of party and protest and large-scale occupations and blockades.
An important component of this struggle was the opposition to plans to build the M11 link road with east London. For a number of years, a small
number of locals had produced newsletters, held meetings, attempted to lobby MPs and engaged in a series of ultimately ineffectives methods to stop the road’s construction.
However a collective campaign began in earnest in September 1993 when the developers’ bulldozers first appeared. Most of the people who were sitting in front of bulldozers, occupying sites and trees and locking themselves on to JCBs with bicycle D-locks in September and October comprised experienced activists who had moved to the area a few weeks previously.
The main priority at this stage was less ‘trees’ and ‘green areas’ but housing. The proposed link road would go through about 350 houses. The Department of Transport bought all these houses a long time ago and had been throwing people out of them for years.
Once people were evicted, firms were brought in to make the houses uninhabitable: toilets were blocked and smashed, floorboards removed,
stair cases demolished, doors and windows breeze-blocked etc. to deter squatters. From the beginning of the campaign, then, the defense and restoration of these houses as dwelling places was important. The empty houses in the area were treated not only as a general living resource to be defended but also as tools and weapons.
The houses could be used not only as ‘permanent’ homes but also as places to crash for people coming up occasionally to join in the struggle and as
bases for information and communication, meetings and coordination.
Although most local residents didn’t want the road, they were not yet prepared to get directly involved in action against it. There seemed to be a feeling that, since the decision to build the road had gone ahead, and since the bulldozers had already arrived, there was nothing they could do about it. Things began to change when the developers fenced off George Green, Wanstead, to begin work in that area.
After a successful mass action, those involved quickly saw the need to act on their power and go further in reclaiming the land. So they pushed the fence down.
Once the first bit went down, more people joined in. People acted fast and in unison, and eventually very little of the fence was left standing. The police intervened very late and by then most of the necessary work had been done. The ‘site’ had been transformed into de facto common land! Earth removal and flower planting by locals went of all over the weekend.
On Monday, security men were told by their bosses to get everyone off the ‘site’. But this simply wasn’t practical. By dismantling the fence the boundaries of the site had been destroyed. For a time, it couldn’t operate as a site any more.
Although the specific campaign was ultimately unsuccessful and the road was built, it was a crucial factor in increasing the road’s overall cost. Together with other campaigns in the UK at that time, the movement played a major role in the large-scale cutbacks in the road building programs that followed in subsequent years.
San Salvador Atenco Airport Stoppage
“We will not give up our land, even if it means giving up our lives.”
On October 21, 2001, church bells rang throughout towns in Mexico to announce terrible news: a large part of lands in Atenco and nearby had passed into government hands. This was through an ‘eminent domain decree’ that had, as its goal, the construction of a new International Airport in Mexico.
The $2.3 billion airport, which government leaders had been planning for more than two decades, would be the largest single public works project of
Vicente Fox’s presidency. Plans included building the enormous infrastructure for the airport on 5400 hectares straddling three towns: Atenco, Texcoco and Chimalhuacán. Atenco was the most affected in terms of the percent of land expropriated (70-percent). Some of its inhabitants would lose almost all of their crops as well as many of their houses.
Locals were aware that the seizure of 5400 hectares would be only the first phase of a larger number of land-takings and the spreading of urban development and infrastructure to connect the new International Airport with the industrial corridors. This would be part of the larger “Plan Puebla Panamá,” strongly pushed by President Vicente Fox. The inhabitants saw themselves being sucked up by a ‘hurricane of development’ and later ‘expelled like garbage on the side of the highway’, surrounded by ‘cyclone fences’. In Atenco, the project would take eighty percent of its terrain and almost the entire town of Ixapan.
They saw that their communities would be shattered, the inevitable increase in alcohol and drug addiction, and that they would be forced to live in apartments, rising up in Mexico’s massive metropolises. “We don’t want it, we would drown there” they said
Huge demonstrations began, often held daily. There were important marches on November 14, 2001. These caused an international stir due to the beatings that dozens of men, women and children received from the police as they entered Mexico City. In spite of that, more than a thousand farmers arrived at the Zócalo (Mexico City’s huge public square), with machetes in hand, where thousands of members of civil organisations that supported them awaited. Those who had remained in the towns affected by the airport went out, indignantly, to block the highway in protest of the police aggressions and to ask for the liberation of those arrested, who were freed some hours later.
After months of struggle, a new wave of action began. The affected peoples demonstrated that they remained united. Thousands of neighbours angrily blockaded roads and highways. They burned vehicles, they took over soft-drink trucks (the contents were used as part of a ‘Popular Kitchen’ that fed all the invitees), they rioted with whatever they could find or make (including some improvised Molotov cocktails). In the offices of the state attorney general, they took various police officers and workers hostage with the goal of trading them for compañeros who had been arrested. The movement was clearly getting stronger and more powerful.
A few weeks later President Vicente Fox canceled the plans. Info taken from http://www.narconews.com/Issue38/article1395.html
Minnehaha Free State
Minnehaha Free State, in Minnesota, USA was a 15 month anti-road occupation and encampment of sacred indigenous lands between two waterfalls, the St. Anthony (what the Dakota called the Minirara (curling water) and Owahmenah (falling water) and Minnehaha beginning on August 10,
On December 20, 1998, 800 cops in “Operation Coldsnap” sought to dislodge the protesters by force in the largest police action in Minnesota history. They arrested many protesters and demolished their homes in the encampment. Accompanying the police were members of state and city
government, Governor Anne Carlson, and a press team described by protestor
Jim Anderson as “the police’s handpicked lap dogs.”
The site was reoccupied until November 1999. www.culturechange.org/issue15/i-55.html