ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Strasbourg/Kehl : les antinucléaires sur le pont
by Jean-Marc Claus
Translated Saturday 30 April 2011, by Hervé Fuyetand reviewed by
At 12.00 on 25 April, at least 2,000 people came together on the Pont d’Europe to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, and to show their support for nuclear victims both in Eastern Europe and in Japan. This followed the call from environmental groups and political parties on both sides of the Rhine. It commemorated the fact that in 1986, according to the French authorities, the radioactive plume stopped at the France-Germany border. In addition, one of the activists’ demands was for the closure of the Fessenheim nuclear power station, the oldest remaining in service in France, and against which more and more local elected politicians have been expressing clear disapproval.
The demonstration, initially authorised on one side of the bridge, spread over the whole bridge, becoming a “die in”. The protest made the bridge impassable to traffic and immobilised the understaffed law enforcement forces. Many speeches in German and in French recalled past events, explained the current situation and gave solutions for a future without nuclear power. Shouts of “Abschalten!” (“Turn them off!”) from the crowd punctuated the speeches with a force that was accentuated by the wailing of sirens. The Franco-German friendship was shown on the Rhine this morning in a common cause, overcoming all differences because it regards the survival of the human race.
Rémi Verdet reiterated that “Nuclear power in France is a denial of democracy, because at no point were the people asked their opinion.”
A symbolic minute of silence was observed, a solemn time during which yellow gerbera flowers and roses thrown into the Rhine from the bridge drifted northwards. Japanese television station NTV also covered the event with a trio of journalists who were among the crowd, but remaining very close to the speakers. The sun emerged from the colourful crowd, adding to the yellow colour representing the anti-nuclear protest. From the elderly man stepping with difficulty from a taxi on the Kehl side, to the school pupils holding hands on the Strasbourg side, there were people of all ages.
The elected environmentalists Marie-Dominique Dreyssé and Jacques Fernique joined the protest, just as they did on previous occasions. Announced by the press the day before, during the scattering of the crowd, Nicolas Hulot made an appearance like a messiah, parting the crowd with a confident step as though he were chasing merchants from a temple. He was surrounded by a swarm of journalists.
But the most symbolic was perhaps the slogan, “Nuclear power? No, thanks!” which was said in German, “Atomkraft? Nein, danke!”. It was translated into Japanese and retained for the occasion.
Strasbourg-Kehl was only one of five protests organised from both sides of the Rhine to Alsace. Taking into account Strasbourg-Kehl, Huningue, Neuf-Brisach, Markolsheim and Chalampé, at least 10,000 people expressed their opposition to nuclear power stations.
To date, over 63,000 French, German and Swiss people signed the petition “Arrêter Fessenheim!” (Shut down Fessenheim).