About a year ago, the Wet’suweten community’s call to block Canada made apparent to everyone how easily “Canada” could be shutted down. Since then, dozens and dozens of railroad blockades have taken place across the territories. Amazed by the strength of this strategy and its echo across the world, European comrades gave us a text Trainstopping, intervention in rail transport - Blocking and sabotage of rail traffic in the context of the anti-nuclear movement, which can be found in its full version here. From this text, we share 16 easy ways to block one of the most fragile critical infrastructures of the Canadian colonial state. We hope that this text will serve as inspiration to respond even more intensely to the next call of First Peoples to block the country.
Sitting blockades are the absolute classic of civildisobedience. They have achieved great popularityabove all through the sit-ins of the 1960s. Students inparticular practiced this form of protest in their rebellionagainst racism, war or homophobia. As early as the1930s, sit-in strikes were used by American workers asa strike tactic. Since the 80s, sit-in blockades have alsoestablished themselves in Europe. Against nuclearweapons, road construction, NATO and later alsosummits or Nazi demonstrations.
In the CASTOR resistance, seatblockades on rails and roads had anenormously symbolic character andbecame a characteristic image. Itenjoyed such a high level of acceptancethat mass blockades regularly occurred,sometimes with thousands ofparticipants from young to old.
Despite a relatively lowinhibition threshold, it isabove all a courageousdecision to use one's ownbody and expose oneself topolice violence by "clearingup" the blockade. Thepolice's strategy is usually abrutal one: So the use of batons, pepper spray, pain grips, dogs, horses and watercannons. Nevertheless, the collective, mostly peaceful and de-escalative characteras well as the possibility to stand up before the eviction, can create a certain feelingof security
Sitting blockades can drag on for many hours, especially if additional logisticalroutes for eviction are blocked, people sit behind the blockade again after beingevicted or other methods of rail sabotage are used, such as rail shoes, shovelingballast away (graveling) or similar.
By this we essentially mean further developments of humanblockades by technical aids. The first uses date back atleast to the anti-US nuclear weapons protests in the 1960s.The delay achieved here tends to be in a better proportionto the number of people involved in the blockade than withconventional seat blockades. Like sitting blockades, thisform of protest - in addition to the rail actions described -has been used in many environmental actions and on theroad against Neo-nazi marches. The most original andsometimes still common form is a combination of handcuffsand a chain or bicycle lock, which is placed around a gate,a rail, a tree or a machine. In the course of time, this form ofaction has been refined and various possibilities have beendeveloped which make it considerably more difficult todetach the firmly chained person.
Here we present different variants of chaining actions on the track in anti-nuclearresistance. A common feature of the different applications is that the concretefastening in a corresponding device only takes place shortly before the policereaches the place of action. But only when it is clear that the train is at standstill!
And: The people in theblockade are at themercy of the police andtheir procedures. Fromthe moment the police tryto break the blockade,they are responsible forthe physical integrity.However, it has beenshown that in most casesthis has been dis-regarded in one way or another. Often the action force first used physical and psychological violence andtried to simply pull out chained persons. Verbal harassment and injuries were notuncommon. (By e.g. sending the support persons off, threatening of the policedoctor with amputation, by tearing or pulling the chained arm, by twisting the arm,by denying food and drinks or by injuring them with coarse mechanical equipment,etc.)
Since the first task forces at the scene of action are usually not special units ( theseare often called in later), it is important that there is a support group of the blockingpersons. In addition to the stopper and observation groups, these people, who aredirectly on site with the chained ones, play an important role. The supportersurrounding field is the "mouthpiece" of the action, and responsive for the police. Itcan make sense that there are 1-2 people who contact the approaching copsdirectly and inform them about the type of action. The group also passes oninformation from "outside" to the chained persons, documents the situation, doespublic information work and takes care of all important matters, such as demandingsufficient protection (hearing protection, protective glasses, break) during use of equipment.
Successful blockades often dragged on for many hours and sometimes had alengthy legal aftermath. A good and intensive examination of the material, therailway line, the different tasks and the interaction in the group, the possible policerepressions, the legal aftereffects and a common dealing with them afterwards istherefore necessary
Lock-ons by means of a pipe are technically rather easy. Depending on the locationof the action and the previous measures taken by the police on the train line, thepipe can be buried under the rails parallel to the sleepers in the ballast or usedflexibly before the action. However, this takes up the time for "graveling" shortlybefore the action.
In many cases, two people chainthemselves with one arm in such away that the work of the police ismade more difficult by the locationof the bodies. It has been shownthat the police's flex work on thepipe is much more complicated ifthe pipe consists of different layersof material. For example,combinations of different metalpipes, between which concrete orceramics, sandpaper and tarpaper have been included, are known. Inside the tubes there is a bar in the middleto which the lock is attached.
Special wristbands are used for this purpose. These are very different in theirdesign and range from tube material, through which e.g. a bicycle chain is pulled, tospecial leather arm bands to wristbands fromplaster, into which a chain link is worked in. Awide and padded supporting surface hasproven to be advantageous and, above all,pleasant for the arm and wrist. It is commonpractice for activists to attach themselves witha padlock, which cannot easily be reopenedby themselves. Also in consideration ofsubsequent actions of other groups: Becausethe police are much more massive and rabierif they assume that the people just need to"let go" or snap a carabiner open.
Often the officers then first try to check the exact fixed point and the attachment ofthe bar as well as the concatenation with the help of an endoscope. However,attempts have also been made to cut arm cuffs with other tools (e.g. telescopicscissors). This was not possible, at all, if the diameter of the tube was such that anarm with clothing fitted comfortably into it, but left no room for the police workingequipment.
The only way to remove theblockers is to open the pipe inthe middle and cut the chaindirectly. Depending on the typeof lock-on action, special unitswith technical equipment mustthen be requested. This meansthat even heavy equipment suchas flexes, pneumatic hammers,drills, crowbars and cuttingtorches can be used directly.
A much more complex lock-on is that of a concrete block in the track bed. Thestructure of such a block usually consists of one or more arm pipes (as describedunder "Pipe"), which are then set in concrete. For the removal a technical unit of thepolice has to be requested, because first the concrete mass has to be removed, inorder to get to the actual pipes and thus to the chaining device. In addition to thegreater expenditure of time, a higher use of machines is also necessary.
Uses of this blockade have shown that armouring by incorporating different materi-als into the block makes the work of the police considerably more difficult. For ex-ample, metal grids, car tyre pieces, various types of rubber, car rims (on the under-side of the tube) and tar board were processed in blockades. The arm pipes wereusually surrounded withmany metal parts or with se-veral concentrically arran-ged pipes of increasing dia-meter, whereby the spacesbetween them were againfilled with concrete. The po-sition of the pipes also playsa role, because these con-crete blocks are often de-signed for several people.
It is known that concretetakes a long time to hardencompletely, so the productionof such a block takes a corre-spondingly long time. It is anenormous achievement toplace such a block well hid-den under the ballast betweenthe rails without leaving anytraces.
In some cases it became known that suchblocks had been found in advance by policepatrols on sections of the road and that thelock-on had been made unusable in order toprevent the action. But the quite numerousactions of this kind in the Anti-Castor movement- some of which lasted up to 21 hours - showthat it is possible to go through out.
The pyramid is a very effective blockade technique, which was initially used forroad blockades. A blockade by means of a pyramid is complex in its preparationand manufacture. It consists oftwo concrete pyramids lyingone inside the other, each withpipe elements for the arms, inthe core of which there arebars for fastening the arm cuff.Unlike the concrete block,however, the pyramid is notrigid because its two parts arenot connected. When the pyramid is upright, the arms can be inserted. As soon as it is moved, the angle ofthe arm passage changes. This makes it much harder, if not impossible, for thetask forces to work on it, because a displacement of the material would cause considerable injury to the arms of the chained people.
An example of a blockade ofthis kind on the street is an action against a Neo-Nazi march in Bad Nenndorf in2010: The police finally solved this by pushing a plate under the whole constructiontogether with the blockers and then driving it to the side of the road. However, thisis not (so easily) possible on the rail. On the last Castor transport to Gorleben in2011, the blockers released themselves after 14 hours and the police had todeclare that they did not have a proportionate solution to break the blockade.
Another form of blocking, whichusually required the police's heightrescue team and therefore also istime-consuming and effective, is theabseiling or climbing blockade. Thisform of action has becomeparticularly well known in thecontext of tree occupations. Withrail blockades of this kind, one ormore persons - from a traversebetween two trees or from a bridge - rope down a bit and thus hinder the train fromcontinuing its journey.
For such an action it is extremely important to deal in ad-vance with rope structures, material science, climbing tech-niques as well as voltage conditions of the overhead lineand safety. It brings great advantages to gain experienceand routine in the single handlings. A well-rehearsed teamis also of considerable importance. In addition to the per-son(s) climbing, there should always be a person with clim-bing experience plus climbing material in the support teamon site for safety reasons, in order to be able to intervene ina supportive and protective manner if necessary.
The securing material (harness, rope, carabiners, slings...) must not be damagedunder any circumstances and should be checked again shortly before the action. Abseiling over the rails also only takes place when it has been ensured that thetrain has stopped.
Despite such safety precautions,during a transport there was thecase that the Castor simply droveon after a short time, although theperson was still hanging on thebridge over the tracks. It alsohappened again and again that thecops broke such a blockade improperly or ruthlessly and knowingly accepted injuries of the activists.
Another form of blockade is by means of a tripod, in which (in most cases) a person"hangs" on a structure consisting of three long rods with a belt. This form of civildisobedience, which became known through road blockades in England, isincreasingly used in actions (especially in the environmental movement), e.g. in theoccupation of gene fields.
The three rods are built into a three-legged tower by connecting them together inthe upper part. Metal rods are often used for construction (these are usuallyscaffolding rodsand clamps). Butalso tree trunks,which were con-structed with thehelp of a ropeaccording to thetripod principle,can be seen in
actions. When putting up, it is important to make sure that there is enough spacefor installing and erecting and that the legs stand securely. It has proved to be idealto have everything prepared as far as possible, close to the place of action. Anchorpoints attached in advance at the upper end (e.g. using a strap loop) are used toattach the belt. The person in the belt prevents the "simple" removal of theconstruction. As with all blockades with technical means, a good preparation andexamination of the material is also necessary here.
Depending on the height of the tripod and the nature of the terrain, lifting platformsor vehicles (e.g. a fire-fighting vehicle) that come close and high enough to theperson(s) are usually used to bring the activists down safely. However, there havealso been cases where the task forces have simply tried to carry away a tripod.
This category includes all forms of junk puton rails, but also felled trees and moretechnically sophisticated methods (e.g.using concrete). Also in barricadeconstruction, as in lock-on constructions,the mixing of materials makes it difficult tofind the right tool to remove them.
Material blockades are used, for example, in the defence of sabotage actionsbefore cops, or as the last stop signal before a blockade action ("light woodbarricade")
Another popular way to make itmore difficult to remove amaterial blockade in the shortterm is to set it on fire. Anessential difference to otherforms of blockade is that after theblockade has been set up, peoplecan avoid the police's control anddo not have to set up their ownbodies.
The most simple method of making a track impassable without the use of toolsand also the most frequently used form of rail sabotage is " graveling ", i.e.removing the ballast stones from the track bed. The superficial removal of theballast bet-ween the slee-pers or the un-covering of thesleeper heads,however, is notsufficient toachieve morethan just asymbolic ef-fect. The railstogether withthe sleepersmust hang freely over a longer section or be hollowed deep under the track.
Graveling has always belonged to the small one-time-one of resistance on thetrack. On the one hand it forms the basic prerequisite for many further blockadeand sabotage practices, on the other hand the relatively low-threshold actionapproach offers many people the opportunity to come into contact with the topicand can thus have a high connectivity.
Sawing & Screwing
Because even the most courageous handicraft (and footwork) quickly reaches itslimits, the question of the right tool arises. If spades and grave forks already offer adecisive advantage when graveling, most tools suitable for track deconstruction arenot available in hardwarestores. Except when somemodifications have been madewith regard to their specialpurpose. Classic examples arethe standard metal hacksaw,whose frame has beenextended to rail height (15 cm),or the flexed wrench, whichallows a pipe extension to befitted to increase leverage. Other rail sabotage tools are directly similar to the trackconstruction tool and are adapted to the needs of subversive use (in terms of noiselevel, transportability, etc.), such as the shortened and dismountable socket wrenchfor square screws.
Again and again, the resistance had to adapt to the challenges of new conditionsand react with a lot of imagination and creativity to further developments in railconstruction. An example: when the Lüneburg - Dannenberg section of the trackwas renovated at the beginning of the 2000s, the 41 hexagon spanner socketdisappeared from the rail fastening range and was replaced by a conical squarescrew (as is also used for bolting the sleepers). A resistance arsenal of wrenchesaccumulated over generations ran the risk of becoming scrap metal overnight.Somebody with a clever head then had the saving idea: a 41 mm socket laseredout in the appropriate size as an adapter piece and the problem was solved.Simple, but ingenious!
Both the German and the French rail networks are in a rather desolate state ofmaintenance. It can always be assumed that rail components are rusty or stronglydeformed due to wear. In addition to the actual tool, there are also usually toolssuch as pipe extensions (levers) and striking tools (e.g. hammer) in the tool boxesof the rail sabotage. The same applies to rust removers (creep oils, etc.), which
should also make sense when using saws as lubricants in order to reduce the wearof the saw blade. Nevertheless, it probably takes several saw blades and quite awhile to make a complete rail cut manually.
It would be much faster with the helpof heavy equipment (e.g. cuttingtorch, motor/accumulator flex, etc.).There are some examples formotorized or with burners performedrail cuts documented, such as thepublic deconstruction of the railwayline Uelzen - Dannenberg. However,the use of such means is rather theexception. On the one hand weight,as well as the high noise level do notpermit the use under most actionscenarios, on the other hand therelatively high procurement costsmight play a role, because action tools are usually disposed after the act.
Lever & Bend
In addition to the "dismantling techniques" described above, bending the rails isanother way of sustainably damaging a track system. This has often been achievedwith the aid of lever forces, e.g. by pushing a tree trunk under the graveled trackand then lifting or pushing down the other end. Sometimes the bolting wasloosened over a longer section before using this method.
A bent rail track cannotbe bent back to itsoriginal shape, but mustbe replaced!
Much lesspower- andpersonnel - in-tensive is thelevering of therail by meansof a hydrauliccar jack. Here,too, the pre-vious loose-ning of thebolts seemedto have madesense, depen-ding on the lif-ting force. However, documented experiments with a 10 t truck jack have shownthat the rail can also be lifted out of the track bed together with the sleepers. Thisnot only saved a lot of time, but also looked more impressive in the end. Wherebythe damage caused and thus the blocking effect was the same.
In a further documentation about an action in 2001, it becomes clear that the ballastwas removed between two sleepers enough for the jack to fit under the rail. Forbetter stability, the tool was placed on a wooden plate: enormous forces act whenthe rail is raised andthe maltreated work-piece is put undertension. There is adanger of gettingtrapped and injuredboth when the jackis lowered and especially when it slipsunexpectedly.
In order to prevent this from happening, bearing timber was sometimes placedunder the rail at the same time as being pumped up. In this way, the jack could alsobe conveniently attached a second time to further bend the rail.
An example from the late 90s is also known, where horizontal levering was used onthe already shut down track between Uelzen and Dannenberg, which was onlyused in exceptional cases for Castor transports: Several sleepers were undercut bygraveling and then sawn in the middle. Then the now separated rail lines werepushed apart by levering. This meant that the track gauge on a few metres of theonce parallel rails was no longer quite correct. There are no limits to the fantasy ofbending rails.
Rail (inhibitor) shoe
Strictly speaking, the rail (inhi-bitor) shoe - also known as the"rail claw" - belongs to the fa-mily of material blockades, be-cause its use prevents the trainfrom continuing its journey, butin itself does not cause any fur-ther damage to the track. Ho-wever, due to its technical so-phistication, we tend to classifyit as a sabotage practice.
Basically it is a "U" welded to-gether from steel profiles,which encloses the rail head.Once mounted on the rail, itcannot be loosened again and must be removed by flexing. This is ensured by amechanical locking mechanism based on the laws of gravity: the latch that clampsthe rail shoe to the rail has a hole with the diameter of a drop bolt embedded in theframe. If the bolt is pushed inwards, the bolt slides into the hole and locks the me-chanism. To unlock the rail shoe again, it would have to be turned upside down,which is prevented by the rail.
Although the use ofrail shoes duringCastor transports tothe Wendland regionis amply docu-mented, we are notsure which year thischarming inventiongoes back to.Anyway, the modelshown here wasused successfullyfor several years and found increasing popularity. Some technicallyexperienced cop succeeded in unlocking a rail shoe attached to the trackduring a Castortansport at the beginning of the2000s (also with the help of simple physical laws,which we don't want to go into more detail here). Inany case, the locking mechanism of the followingseries was additionally secured by a spring. Thesecond generation was able to solve this problem,but lost some of the charm of its basic idea,because the rail shoe had to be tightened to makeit " armed ".
Horseshoe-shaped steel hook-claw
The invention of the "hookclaw" (as we call it in the fol-lowing for lack of a professio-nal translation) resembles asmall revolution in the historyof research into effectivemeans in railway sabotage.An inconspicuous piece ofmetal, placed in the rightplace, destroys the overheadline of a railway line with all the power of a train weighing tons! The first appearance of a hook claw in the early 1990s was documented in theNetherlands and was directed against NATO arms transports in connection with the First Iraq War. Later, it found its way especially into the anti-nuclear resistance.
Manufacture and handling:
A 2-3 cm thick round steel is bent into the appropriate (horseshoe-)shape orcarefully welded together. The stability of the construction is of greatimportance for the safety of people standing around, as enormous forces areexerted in the moment of impact. In order to prevent skidding around, amovable drop bar also secures the claw on the overhead contact line.The hook claw is suspended from a bridge in the overhead line by means of afishing line, or suspended from the track by means of PE pipes inserted intoeach other. The fixed bracket on the side of the claw is used for suspension. Itis important that the claw is in the opposite direction to the driving direction inorder to catch the current collector correctly.Working in contact with the live overhead line requires great care. In order toavoid the danger of an electric shock when attaching a claw, for example, anaction should be stopped in rain or even fog.
Function and mode of action:The current collector of thelocomotive hooks into the claw anddrags it over the overhead line,whereby the suspensions of the lineare torn off and the cable finallycomes to a standstill on the roof ofthe train - a short circuit occurs. Evenif the emergency brake is appliedimmediately, the overhead line isdestroyed for at least one kilometre.Several railway spokespersons have publicly confirmed after attacks that there isno danger to passengers or train personnel if this technique is used "properly"
Symbol of the militant anti-nuclear movement:However, the hook claw owes its fame less to its innovative character than to the various (unsuccessful) state attempts to bring this practice closer to terrorism andthus discredit the anti-nuclear movement. At the end of the nineties, a series of attacks on overhead lines in connection withnuclear transports to Gorleben led to an elaborate investigation into the 'foundationof a criminal organisation' according to § 129a. Almost 1000 opponents of nuclearpower in Wendland and in several German cities were targeted by the repressiveauthorities. Many years later, the trial, which became known as the "Golden HookClaw" (according to the solidarity campaign of the same name) , was abandonedwithout result.Probably the best known process today in connection with the use of hook claws isthe so-called "Tarnac affair": in November 2007 the overhead lines on several rail-way lines in Germany and France were sabotaged. The attacks were directedagainst the Castor transports from La Hague to Gorleben and were intended tocommemorate the death of the young anti-nuclear activist Sébastien Briat in 2004.
On the French side, the investigations into"association malfaiteur" (corresponding to theGerman §129) led to a small rural commune inthe village of Tarnac. The case was especiallyexplosive because, in addition to the sabotageacts, the defendants were also partly accusedof being authors of several communist-insurrectionist writings using the pseudonym"Invisible Committee". The texts (the best-known of them is probably "The ComingUprising") are the basis for a philosophical variation which is called appealism -based on the first work "The Call" - and which, in addition to much (justified)criticism, attracted attention far beyond the left-radical scene. In 2018 - more thanten years later - the "Tarnac case" is heard in court. In the proceedings, which havereceived a lot of media attention, illegal investigation methods and falsification ofevidence by the authorities become obvious. The trial ends with acquittals.Another way to disrupt rail traffic: The earthing of theoverhead line to the rail. In this case, carried out byemployees of Deutsche Bahn AG, to finish a climbingblockade / to recover a hook claw discovered early.
Cable shaft - Arson
Arson attacks on cableshafts have becomewidespread in therepertoire of militantaction groups. Thismethod is used not onlyin anti-nuclear struggles,but also, for example, tofight against coal energy,or to disrupt the time course of Neo-Nazi events.
Due to a serious attack on a cable junction of the Berlin S-Bahn in 2011, which notonly disrupted rail traffic for several days, but also telephone and Internet connecti-ons, the use of the DB cable shafts by third companies is known to a wider public.Under the pseudonym "Grollen des [Rumbling of] Eyjafjallajökull", unidentified indi-viduals had committed an arson attack on a cable shaft of the Berlin S-Bahn. Refer-ring to the eruption of the Icelandic volcano "Eyjafjallajökull" in 2010, whose hugecloud of dust paralyzed air traffic for days throughout Europe, they aimed to strikethe "tormenting and murderous normality" of a metropolis and set a "stop signal".
What they proclaimed to be a conscious "interruption of people's rut in the name ofa capital city", representing arms exports, nuclear policy, ecological catastropheand migration control, was subsequently discussed very controversially within theframework of the so-called Slow-down-Debate. The intention to impose theconsequences of the attacks (delays, long waiting times) on others and to forcethem to pause in their everyday (working) lives not only met with incomprehension,but also brought the accusation of arbitrariness and paternalism into the debate.
Beyond this controversy: The inter-ruption of electricity supply, flows ofgoods or data, with the aim of disrup-ting the functioning of capitalist logicor the infrastructure of the state order,has always been a kind of resistance.In recent years, this has found newinspiration in the age of digitalization.
Railway rails are made of har-dened steel. The running surfacein particular is quasi permanently"re-forged" by the regular traintraffic weighing tons. This meansthat rails cannot be worked on withconventional welding methods(electrode, thermal, shielding gas)!The exception is a chemical welding process based on the combustion of a metalmixture called termite. The mixture of aluminium oxide and ferro3 (red rust) requires anignition temperature of at least 1200°C, during combustion temperatures of up to5000°C occur. The industrial application of termite is mainly known from trackconstruction itself and is used to weld the single rail lines to each other.
The resistance has also repeatedly made (smaller) attempts to seize this means forsabotage purposes. The last attempt was documented in 2011 during the Castortransport in Wendland: With a termite fire a steel profile was "grilled" on the railhead. Despite some such "experiments", the big, sustainable termite action in thematter of rail has so far remained a wishful dream and myth of the anti-nuclearmovement. It remains to be seen whether this is due to the relative difficulty ofprocuring it, or whether the ability to liquefy steel is too much of a "militant fantasyof omnipotence".
The only success ofseveral attempts to undermine the Castortransport route between Dannenberg andthe interim storage facility in Gorleben. Theforensic investigation showed that a mainwater pipe was tapped by means of a so-called "water lance" and from there a pipewas laid under the transport route. Thistechnique has also been used severaltimes to try to sabotage the railway line.
Cut of the loading crane:
In 1995 there was an attack on the Cas-tor loading crane in Dannenberg. Cuttingtorches were used to cut through severalbeams of the crane. The symbolic imagefailed to appear: The crane did not bendits knees, because the sinking tower wasjammed. Nevertheless, the object had tobe completely replaced, and the cost ofthe damage was in the millions.
''Nuclear power is a bridging technology''
In 2000/01 the ailing Seerauer Bridge was renewed onthe last track section before the Dannenberg loadingstation. The new construction aimed directly at the suita-bility for the heavy-duty transports of the nuclear indus-try towards Gorleben. The bridge was never used forthe Castor transport: Shortly before the announcedtransport, a richly loaded trailer burned directly underthe steel and concrete structure. Although the bridgeremained standing, the enormous heat development af-fected the statics to such an extent that it also had to becompletely removed and built a new.
In all these cases, the police's investigations petered out!
This exhibition is also intended as a dedication to all unknown inventors and crafts(wo)men of the resistance who remained in hiding, developed tools and created a basis for many actions.