Sunday, July 3, 2011

What will it take to prevent harm from High-Speed Rail? How far will we go?

The European press has many articles about the anti-HSR protests in Italy.  These have been going on for a while now and have become violent, with several killed and many injured.  

As the "Arab Spring" is taking place in many autocratically ruled countries, we admire the courage of those who are now standing up to their respective regimes as they demand a more democratic government.  We applaud them.  But, what about us, here?

This article about HSR violence in Italy is brought to your attention to raise a sensitive issue.  Those of you who object to the construction of high-speed rail in California, how far in the direction of civil resistance are you prepared to go?  Such disobedience should, of course, not be violent, unlike Italy's example. It should be in the spirit of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.  Peaceful protest. Non-violent confrontation.

The terms that were applied to Gandhi were: 

Satyagraha = resistance to tyranny through mass civil disobedience.
Ahimsa = nonviolence

Furthermore, such popular uprisings and grass-roots movements are a mainstay of registering mass displeasure with a recalcitrant government.  Gandhi considered them essential to the creation and preservation of Democracy.  Consider them in the spirit of political rallies and marches. These are, in my mind, part of the greatness of this country; that we can abstain from violence and yet express our views. We enjoy the First Amendment Right of free and public speech. We have a duty to exercise that right.

The HSR project in California is not in the best interests of most Californians, their marginal majority vote to the contrary. I believe that many voters now realize that what they voted for was not a truthful description of what is intended by the CHSRA.  This issue deserves far more attention than it has received.  We were 'snookered' into voting for what we, in fact will not get.  That's wrong and we must say so.

I suspect that most of us consider ourselves far too genteel, too polite, too civil, perhaps too educated.  We are big believers in negotiation.  What, however, if we continue to be ignored by the rail authority and by the Legislature?  

Will we wait for eminent domain letters to appear in our mailboxes?  Will we wait as construction crews and dirt hauling trucks start crowding our streets? Will we wait while they pour the concrete for the piers supporting the elevated train deck?  When will we say STOP, and really mean it?

And, those who are comfortable saying, "Oh, this can never happen,"  are either too young, or have forgotten their recent European history. Things have a way of happening, whether we wish them to or not.

Italy police, protesters clash at demonstration against high-speed rail linking Italy, France

By Associated Press, Updated: Sunday, July 3, 11:54 AM

ROME — Italian police clashed Sunday with thousands of demonstrators protesting a high-speed rail line linking Italy to France.

Officials said anarchists infiltrated the protest and were responsible for injuring nearly 200 police officers. It was not immediately clear how serious the injuries were or how many protesters were injured. At least five people were arrested.

President Giorgio Napolitano condemned the violence and said police were right to react with “maximum” force to root out the anarchists from legitimate protesters, who included families and 23 mayors from the Val di Susa area in northwest Italy.

Riot police fired tear gas to try to contain the protesters, who hurled stones and firebombs as they marched toward a new construction site for the railway that opened this week in Chiomonte, west of Turin.

Construction of the high-speed rail on the Italian side was brought to a standstill by protests before and after the Turin Winter Olympics in 2006. This week, protests resumed after the Chiomonte site opened.

Many residents between Turin and the French border say a high-speed train line would ruin the area, and they object to the drilling of a tunnel which they claim could release potentially harmful materials in the atmosphere.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

No comments: