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Nuclear Waste Train=More Surveillance In Chicago?

The equation of protest with terrorism is particularly disturbing and chilling when practised by a public official.
Urbana, IL-August 8, 2001
The local dominant media paper, the Champaign News-Gazette, published an article today about the upcoming train shipment of nuclear waste across Illinois and a number of other states in its journey from New York to Idaho. The train will traverse Illinois on the tracks of the Norfolk Southern RR, passing through such local towns as Tolono, in southern Champaign County. Protected by armed guards, authorities have been tight-lipped about the exact timing of the move, saying only that it will occur between now and late September. The claimed reason for all the security became clear towards the end of the article.

After describing a number of scenarios that could threaten the train and its cargo, Rich Allen, manager of the Office of Environmental Safety for the Illinois Department of Nuclear Safety, claimed that authorities worried most about "protesters." He implied that they might wish to commit suicide in front of the train, but failed to explain how the body of a hypothetically suicidal protester could threaten a train that weighs hundreds of tons.

The main thrust of official comment seemed to be the demonization of protesters, while offering the public no new information except that, while safety was a concern, it would be unlikely that an evacuation would be required in the event of an accident involving highly radioactive waste.

Allen then claimed that authorities were, in the words of the story, "keeping a wary eye on a protester’s camp scheduled in Chicago in the next few weeks." This is particularly interesting in that surveillance of political activists has been constrained in Chicago in the past by a federal court decision.

The article finished by quoting Allen again. "The FBI and the Department of Energy take the security of these shipments very seriously." Making a final stab at tying legitimate protest and terrorism together, he finished by stating, "They [the FBI and DOE] know who is who in activist land and terrorist land. I wouldn’t be surprised if they had their eyes on this group as well."



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