Trainstopping by text

IssueDecember 2003 - February 2004
Feature by Rasmus Grove

In recent years the German anti-nuclear movement has been quite successful in organising nonviolent actions against Castor-transports en route to the intermediary storagehall for nuclear waste in Gorleben/Wendland. This November the German government has again needed 13,000 policewomen and men to guard this eighth transport, containing 12 carriages of nuclear waste. About 3000 anti-nuclear protesters have again succeeded in showing that the struggle over nuclear energy is by no means over. The acclaimed phasing out of nuclear power plants by the red-green government can't be taken very seriously and there is no solution to the issue of disposal of nuclear waste. The anti-Castor protest, especially in the wider region around Gorleben, the so called “Wendland”, is very active and alive, although the concepts and means of protest have been changing.

SMS mobilisation

During the last transport the campaign “X-tausendmal quer” used SMS (texting)technology to organise information and mobilisation of both activists and media.

Activists who are interested in joining the protests can subscribe to an SMS-mobilisation-list. This list has been growing and now has more than 1000 SMS-addresses. During the heated days of mobilsation, ie some days before the start of a Castor-transport, this SMS-list is being used to send a mobilising SMS to the activists. To do this X-tauendmal quer is using a standard email program and a special (commercial) SMS-provider. This system also works for sending out faxes.

Planning ahead

During the last Castor-transport X-tausendmal quer created another SMS-list for activists who actually participated in the actions: since it had become increasingly difficult to gather everyone in one place, but was tremendously important to coordinate a common start of the actual blockade, affinity groups received their starting signal via SMS. Even more successfully, X-tausendmal quer has been using SMS for informing and mobilising the media about anti-Castor actions.

Accreditation system

Because the how and when of actions is sometimes difficult to communicate to a large number of media outlets, X-tausendmal quer has developed a sophisticated system for media accreditation.

Over the last couple of years we have collected contact details of hundreds of journalists reporting on Castor transports. In the run-up to a transport all journalists who registered during previous transports will receive emails and faxes asking them if they would like accreditation with X-tausendmal quer for this years' actions. This way the media-team of X-tausendmal maintains an up-to-date database with fax, phone, email and mobile numbers of journalists actually working on the issue. The details are used to send out press releases and for contacting journalists directly.

“Action starts”

Journalists are also being asked to subscribe to an SMS-list. This list becomes crucial when it comes to informing and mobilising journalists about/for actions. Usually they will receive an SMS informing them vaguely about when and maybe where an action is going to take place. The phone-number of the media team of X-tausendmal quer is also given and just before an action takes place journalists will receive an SMS with an “action starts” message and possibly the details where to go if they would like to cover the event. Following this there will be messages about the actual state of the action, sent every couple of minutes, just like a news ticker.

By using this system during the last Castor-transport X-tausendmal quer successfully drew together all the relevant media (ie press agencies, TV, radio, newspapers) and has become well-known for their high quality media work.

System overload

However, there is one problem with this technology: due to the excessive use of mobile phones in the region by both activists and policemen the mobile communications networks are often very busy and, in the worst cases, the time from sending to receiving an SMS can be up to 20 minutes. Having said that it is a fine technology which can be used for all kinds of other actions as well. All you need is some office space and an SMS-provider that allows mass distribution of SMS.