Last month France's high speed train, the TGV, hit chaos when its power lines were sabotaged.
People had reportedly made a device from iron bars that a train would drag along, taking out the power lines for all following trains.
At the time, the French railway system was being used to transport the Castor nuclear waste trains. There were other actions along the way, but nowhere else saw anything on quite this scale.
The police have raided the suspects' houses and nine people were detained under terrorism charges. They were living in a rural community where, in true nihilistic terrorist style, they were growing their own food and had re-opened the village store.
Rather like the sinister way the British government has a definition of terrorism that includes non-violent action, so the French authorities are calling these people terrorists despite the fact that what they did - even by the admission of the French government and train operator - could not have harmed anyone.
As Giorgio Agamben said in Liberation on November 19th [English translation here],
one might expect that investigators found weapons, explosives and Molotov cocktails on the farm in Millevaches. Far from it.
SDAT [French anti-terrorist police] officers discovered "documents containing detailed information on railway transportation, including exact arrival and departure times of trains." In plain French: an SNCF [French railway] train schedule.
But they also confiscated "climbing gear." In simple French: a ladder, such as one might find in any country house.
Much of the French media is not being so careful in sifting the details. The activists are being portrayed as terrorists because of the anarchist views they hold and literature they read. They have been under state surveillance for months, simply for being political activists.
In an open letter, the parents of five of them speak of the hope and courage they get from their children's actions, from the way 'they naively think that life, intelligence and decisions are more joyous when they are collective'.
This is another attempt to demonise direct action. One of them, Julien Coupat, has been unironically branded the leader of the anarchists.
As the Tarnac 9's case comes to court we should keep a close watch. From our standpoint, we can't do that much, although a demo outside an embassy never did anyone any harm. But if these people get the touted 20 year sentences, or indeed any convictions at all, they deserve the greatest prisoner support that can be provided.
In the meantime, letters of solidarity can be sent to them at:
Comite de Southien aux Inculpes de Tarnac,