In recent weeks, partly through reports from participants and eyewitnesses, and partly through live streams, we have witnessed numerous unlawful acts by RWE and the police, some of which endangered the lives of activists. These are not exceptional occurrences. On the contrary, the police and RWE Security have been behaving the same way for years, especially in the Hambach Forest. The only difference is that during the evictions in recent weeks, there has been much more media attention and abuses and maltreatments have occurred at shorter intervals. Our text is not exhaustive. We can only report on the incidents we heard about ourselves.
Note: Enough is Enough is not organizing any of these events, we are publishing this text for people across the US and Europe to be able to see what is going on and for documentation only.
An extensive, medial and concrete discussion of the behavior on the side of the police is missing so far. It is incomprehensible to us how the reporting focuses on throwing feces to officials, while they at the same time are putting the lives of activists at risk. Protesters and activists are expected to keep their protest within the limits of legality, while the police are acting systematically and disproportionately and denying people’s rights, e.g. freedom of assembly and physical integrity. We therefore documented and collected some experiences that provide insight into the degrading and unlawful practices of state power. These are not exceptional cases of individual police misconduct, but a structural problem of the police as an executive force that activists are often confronted with.
Large-scale danger area
At the end of August – even before the evacuation – the entire area around the Hambach Forest, including the village of Buir, was declared a danger area. This enables police to carry out massive, arbitrary and long-lasting checks and searches. People were hindered in arrivals and departures for registered demonstrations and sometimes detained when they did not want to reveal their identity. We see this as a serious restriction on the freedom of assembly as well as the fundamental right to freedom of movement of residents, walkers and other visitors, which is not justified to the same extent.
For example, “Alfpartout”, a bus collective that cooks for the occupiers, has been searched multiple times. During one of the searches, passers-by who only happened to be there were threatened by the gun-pulled police, as were the habitants of the bus itself. For more details, see http://alfpartout.blogsport.eu/2018/08/23/festnahmen-und-busbeschlagnahmung-beim-hambacher-wald/ English translation under the German text.
After the bus had been confiscated for several days without a Verwahrungsbescheinigung (certificate of seizure), electronic devices worth € 2,000 were missing after handing over, representing no danger in the sense of the declared danger area. For Verwahrungsbescheinigung, see: §43 PolG NRW – Sicherstellung and §44 PolG NRW – Verwahrung: “To the person concerned must be issued a certificate that identifies the reason for the seizure and designates the seized property”.
Also, just before the eviction in the forest, a raid on the meadow camp took place, in which infrastructure such as the library and the outdoor kitchen were destroyed. The meadow camp is a private property that the owner lets the activists have. The reason given for that search was that they were looking for objects suitable for crimes. During the search, i.a. 1000 liter water containers were confiscated, which are one of the few sources of water for the meadow camp and the forest occupation.
Since the beginning of the eviction, people’s freedom of movement has been severely restricted. According to police, more than 700 sending-offs and around 40 prohibitions of access were issued, some of which should be valid until December or the end of the clear-cutting season. In our estimation, most of these sending-offs and prohibitions of access are unlawful and disproportionate as they are far too extensive in time and place. On the other hand, numerous lawsuits have been filed with the Administrative Court of Aachen, which have not come to a decision yet. People checks are searched on the street and also minors are frisked. In addition, a person with trans identity was seized into the pants for the determination of the biological sex because the police implied this person to use a false identity card.
The forest walk on 09/23/2018 was limited to a stationary rally, which severely restricted the freedom of assembly protected by Article 8 of the German Basic Law (Constitution).
In addition, objects are confiscated again and again, based on danger area: rain cover tarpaulins, tents, sleeping bags, spectacles, brushes and other painting utensils and a number of climbing harnesses, required for securing when climbing on trees. The police declared, except in special cases, to withhold all confiscated items until the end of the deforesting work.
Even a 6-year-old child was checked for being disguised because it had a scarf around their neck and mouth tied. The police then contacted the youth welfare office. Unfortunately, this kind of police action is not uncommon: during protests it happens again and again that police – although objectively there is no danger – construct an alleged endangerment of the children in order to prevent parents from attending demonstrations with their children.
Freedom of the press massively restricted
The freedom of the press during the evictions was made more difficult by the fact that some press representatives were not allowed to pass through, were forcibly lead away by the police, cameras or smart phones were confiscated. The reason given for these restrictions of freedom of the press was that the area around the evictions was too dangerous to enter. Partly, no reasons were given at all: “Because I do not feel like discussing with you.” This way, in many cases the right to a justification for a police action against those affected was denied.
The DJV (German Journalists Association) criticized the work of the police in several press releases:
“Reasons are reports of journalists, whom the police denied the passing of the barriers […]” Frank Stach, chairman of DJV North Rhine-Westphalia, adds: “The police blockade affects journalists who can legitimize themselves as professionals. The behavior of the police is unacceptable. Unfortunately, there have been complaints from colleagues about obstructions in the past few days.”
Partly, journalists who were allowed by the police to enter the forest, were immediately thrown out again by RWE employees.
Despite the admonition of the DJV, nothing has changed in recent days that the police – whether systematically or due to bad internal coordination – hinders press representatives at work and thus also denies civil society its right to impartial information.
Also paramedics, pastors and parliamentary observers are repeatedly prevented by the police to go into the forest in order to practise their work there.
Even after the deadly accident on 09/19/2018, psychological assistants were prevented from entering the forest. In Beechtown, police arrested an activist who wanted to come down from the tree to mourn.
In at least one case, paramedics were not left to an injured person who had been harmed by the police operation. In one case, pepper spray was used against clearly discernible paramedics.
Endangering and Violence
During the felling and clearing, RWE employees and the police regularly endangered the lives of people to be evicted, despite warning signs and multiple specific indications by the activists.
Among other things, the following actions could be observed:
- Safety ropes and secondary safety ropes, on which humans were attached, were cut through (for example, on 9/27 in Gallien). Sometimes, accidents could only be avoided by incidental rope friction or rapid action by the activists. An activist who was being evicted from the Skypod (a wooden platform suspended between the trees) in North said, “There was only the friction holding out because the rope was wrapped around the tree.”
- Initially, the police ignored the underground tunnel in “Oaktown”, despite being aware that there were people in it, moving heavy machinery on it and endangered this way the lives of the activists. At times, machines were standing right next to the tunnel entrance, causing exhaust fumes to be channeled into the tunnel. The ventilation system of the tunnel was further affected by an oil-smeared compressor, so that the activists located there were put into mortal danger by the toxic exhaust gases.
- By overnight evictions, nocturnal sonication (inter alia chainsaw noises from megaphones), and constant lighting of the sleeping places over several days, many activists were deprived of sleep and thus suffering from reduced ability to concentrate. In some cases, strobe light was used, This can trigger epileptic fits, among other things.
- During the eviction of the blockade “niederAUSmachen” in the power plant Niederaußem, which took place at the same time as the evictions in the Hambach Forest, police officers brought a person in mortal danger, because they carried away a tripod (three-legged barricade), on which the person was.
The systematic sleep deprivation by sonication and lighting is internationally recognized as torture. Furthermore, the police regularly threatened with massive violence during the evacuation work. From a “Junge Welt” article: “With sentences such as «I’m gonna break your wrist», the officers appeared to be aggressive on Monday.”
Anett Selle, a taz journalist, reported on the evictions on Sept. 27th: “Some hit faces, heads or arms, with their hands or shield edges. They corner people, until panic arises. They push, people fall, others kick on them, even press is beaten.” (Video Warning Facebook link)
In the last weeks, the brutal actions of the police have resulted in several serious injuries such as a broken arm, a broken foot or broken and bruised ribs that came about during the eviction impacted by police. Already on the first day of the eviction, a person’s glasses were torn off their face, fingers were pressed on their eyes and they were torn to the ground.
In addition, the police constantly used pain grips. Pain in the ear caused a person to hear badly hours later. An activist was hit while clearing a sitting block with a wooden board. In addition, pepper spray was used against protesters. The systematic addition of pain as an evacuation method is common but not less despicable.
In addition, the police all the time routinely uses pain grips. Pain in the ear caused a person to hear badly still hours later. During the eviction of a sitting blockade, an activist was hit with a wooden board. In addition, pepper spray was used against protesters. The systematic application of pain as an evacuation method is common but not less despicable.
On Sept. 27th an activist fell from a ladder at a tree house – she fell from 8 m height and landed with several broken ribs and bruises all over the body in the hospital. She herself said about the incident: “On the last step, I saw people again being put in mortal danger when the police installed their elevator above the safety ropes, at which there were people attached. The panic you feel then is unimaginable and has made me to fall from 8 meters.” (Article in the BILD-Zeitung)
Experience has shown that without press representatives in the vicinity, often more violence is committed against the activists. For example, on 9/26 an activist in “T-Town” was beaten up by the police when he was the last person on the scene.
Treatment in the detention center (GeSa)
According to the police, 437 people have been taken into custody since the beginning of the eviction (as of 09/29). Again and again we found that elementary rights of the imprisoned were not respected and they partly were treated inhumane. Here some examples:
- Taking away and not giving back or breaking of glasses and various other personal items, often without seizure certificate.
- Completely naked undressing of the activists was more the rule than the exception, sometimes with fingering in the anus and insults on how “dirty” one is. This practice violates human dignity and physical integrity and is only lawful if there are concrete indications that the person is hiding something, but should never be used as a standard measure.
- Pain grips during the identification treatment.
- There were sometimes no or not enough blankets, water and food provided. Activists reported that they only received a dry roll and were denied further food.
- Activists were denied calls to the EA (legal team) or lawyer, in individual cases even during several days. They were misinformed about their rights and further measures. In some cases, they were not informed of the allegations that caused the loss of their freedom. There were also attempts made, with the help of threats and false information, to make the detainees provide their personal details.
- The legal deadlines for detention were often exhausted to the last minute and in some cases even exceeded. Judicial reviews of remand took place only rarely and if, then only after about 20 hours, instead of after 2-3 hours (the law says: “without delay”). If there were reviews, in most cases the maximum duration was applied for and imposed – also the courts in Kerpen and Düren cooperated.
- Non-German-speaking people did not get a translation when they were informed about their rights and further measures.
Some people were still held in custody for hours despite the fact that they carried their ID cards with them and showed them without hesitation. A reason for their arrest was not mentioned by the police.
Prisoners in jail
Since a barricade clearance on 19.03.18 UPIII (unknown person) is in custody. Meanwhile, she was sentenced to 9 months in prison without probation. During the evictions of the past two weeks, five more people have been arrested. One of these people has since been released after 10 days in prison. Two of them are alleged to have been chained together at a tree house, whereby they meet, according to the public prosecutor’s office in Aachen, “resistance to law enforcement officers in a particularly serious case” (§113). These two persons were unable to contact the lawyer for more than three days, despite repeated requests for legal assistance. In another case, in which the police had promised to inform the lawyer about the review of remand date or to allow the people to call, they forgot it according to their own statements and left the defendants without legal counsel in the review of remand. A disregard of the right to consult a defender (§137 StPO).
Other persons were dismissed at the time of their reviews of remand after having given their personal details, for example four people who were accused of involvement in a concrete block blockade on the Hambach Railway. The police used in several cases, the threat of a presentation to the magistrate (the judge who checks the habeas corpus), although such was not planned, in order to extort personal data.
Since the evictions are not over yet and more people are in custody, further detention cases can come along at any time.
Update 10/02/2018: Two people were released under conditions from custody.
You can find further information about the prisoners on the blog of Anarchist Black Cross Rhineland.
Let’s not forget our prisoners, break the isolation and write letters!!!
We will continue to try to document and best publicize police violence and other forms of repression.
If you want to tell us something you’ve experienced, you can write us (best encrypted): firstname.lastname@example.org
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Anyone who subsequently receives mail from police, prosecutors or courts and desires support, can contact the Anti-Repressionsgruppe Rheinisches Revier (Anti Repression group Rhein Mining area).
Out of Action, a group of activists, informs about the psychological consequences of repression and violence in the context of left-wing political resistance. They provide emotional first aid to affected individuals and groups.
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