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#HambacherForest: So… where do we go from here?

On Friday the higher adminstrative court in Muenster ruled that for the time being RWE is not allowed to uproot Hambacher Forest. The ban is only temporarily but could be for up to two years. A reportback from the past weekend and first thougts about this new situation.

Published by Enough is Enough. Written by Riot Turtle.

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.

We arrived at Hambacher Forest in the early morning hours on Saturday. We expected that many people would come and that there would be chaos on the streets and train stations and wanted to arrive before the big wave would reach the region. We parked our car in Manheim and one of the first things we saw was private securities of RWE patrolling the streets. Behaving like cops in the small village, although they have zero authority on public streets on the German territory. RWE acts like the whole region is owned by them. 

The fact that we arrived so early gave us the chance to speak with a few locals. People told us how RWE is destroying communities in the villages that are under threat of eviction, as the open pit mine is not only threatening to swallow Hambacher Forest but also some of the villages in the region. people told us that the company actively works on division in the local communities by giving “better” disappropriation offers to some of the people in the village in comparison to others. A local farmer told us that RWE digger destroyed one of his fields by digging off the soil until the gravel in the ground. Another farmer told us that it’s funny that RWE is complaining when “property” of the energy giant is being occupied in Hambacher Forest (RWE and German lawmakers think that the trees belong to RWE, because somebody wrote that on a paper that they call contract), but that the same corporation has no problem to park their digger on his field, explaining that this heavy RWE  equipment completely destroyed his field.

During our conversations with locals more and more people arrived at the field behind the permanent 24 hour Hambi Bleibt (Hambi stays) vigil. At 10:30 a column of tractors arrived. People where cheering the farmers.

The crowd was growing and growing and although the cops completely closed the A 4 highway and many problems (again) with train traffic, at least 50.000 people came to the gathering for the preservation of Hambacher Forest and against coal. Many speakers thanked the forest occupiers for their determination and commitment in the struggle.

People celebrated the court order for a temporarily ban on uprooting the forest, but me and the rest of our group did not come to celebrate. Of course the court order gives us a lot of time to fight for the preservation of the forest and to finally end coal, but to much has happened during the past months. One person died, many people beaten, pepper sprayed, injured and detained… 

We went into the forest. First stage was Beech Town. The memorial for Steffen was brought back to evicted tree house village, after cops forced people to move it during the evictions. I am often at the memorial when I go to Hambacher Forest. The fact that cops were harassing people who were documenting the evictions on the ground forced them to go up in the trees when they wanted to continue reporting without being harassed or taken around by media cops. I know I would have done the same. I would also have gone up in the trees… The fact that the cops were confiscating climbing (and security) gear before and after Steffen died makes me sad and angry. For me personally Beechtown is like a magnet since Steffen died. I always take the time to go there, to mourn, to think, to reflect…

As we left Beechtown again, we walked through the forrest and saw people building barricades and digging trenches everywhere. First platforms were going up in the trees. The re-occupation of Hambacher forest had begun.

In the early afternoon activists started blocking a RWE digger at the open pit mine. There were not that many cops as in the weeks before and while the cops were busy with that blockade more and more parts of the forest were barricaded and re-occupied. When we went home that evening, the digger was still blocked.


The next morning I came back to the forest, alone. But I have some friends there, so I hooked up with them. First we went to the weekly forest walk. But when I arrived in Buir the first thing I saw was a chor singing next to the train tracks of the Hambach Bahn. They “forced” the cops to go on the train tracks to prevent chore members from doing that. So the cops were blocking the Hambach Bahn which is being used by RWE to transport coal to nearby power stations.

After the gathering with 50.000 people the day before, it was good to see that a few thousand came to the forest walk on Sunday. Although I was happy to see so much people from the city where I live on Saturday, I have to admit that I was a bit dissapointed that a lot of them weren’t there anymore on Sunday. A re-occupation is not a one-day action. 

I decided to make a livestream (Video of the live stream in the tweet below) of the forest walk, something that I don’t do that often. After the forest walk reached its final point I streamed a few minutes in Hambacher forest, so people got an idea about the beauty of the forest and the barricades that were build the day before.

I stopped streaming before I reached the new occupations because I didn’t want to bring people in trouble in case they would do something that could activate state prosecuters and cops. I also didn’t want to show the cops where exactly the new occupations are. Reporting is important but there are things that I will never stream.

The cops and RWE securities did not clear the barricades over night, so people could concentrate on making the already exisiting barricades stronger. Digging trenches and continue to build new ground structures and construct new structures in the trees.

The RWE digger in the open pit mine that was blocked and stopped from working on Saturday afternoon was still blocked by activists. In the end people managed to hold the blockade for 27 hours. Nobody was charged after the blockade ended.

As people continued to build new structures in the forest, we realized more and more that the cops would probably also not evict in the next days. In the evening hours NRW’s state minister of interior, Herbert Reul, announced that the cops would retreat from Hambacher forest on Monday. When we left the forest in the  evening we only saw 2 police vans left and they were standing about 600 meters outside of the forest. The cops already started retreating and in fact we didn’t see them inside the forest at all during the weekend, but that might be also because of the barricades. The cop vans would not have been able to move in the forest without armored vehivles clearing barricades every 50 meters…

So… where do we go from here? For the time being Hambacher Forest is saved from uprooting because of the court ruling by the higher adminstrative court in Muenster. The movement re-occupied the forest and the NRW state government is in alarm because the governing CDU and FDP completely failed. The approval rates for the CDU in the polls have fallen 7% this week, while German public radio and TV, WDR, reported that 79% of the people in the state of North Rhine Westphalia (NRW) are opposing to uproot Hambacher Forest. Not that I am suddenly thinking polls are important but it gives an impression how big the support for the movement is at the moment. 

Yesterday many people just came by to bring food, climbing gear and other things that are needed in the forest. The resistance is broad but also fragile. A spokesperson of Enviromental association BUND spoke about “criminals” in the forest and another BUND official said that he hopes the forest wouldn’t be re-occupied. The positive thing is that thousands didn’t care what BUND officials said and went into the forest to re-occupy it. Others showed their solidarity during the gathering on Saturday, thanking the people who occupied the forest. If people wanted to know why there is no official coalition or alliance with organizations like BUND now they should know why. 

A lot of people have experienced state violence for the first time in their life in the past weeks. There was mass civil disobedience in the forest again and again, as people understood that it was the occupation and the Ende Gelaende actions of civil disobedience in the open pit mine that played a major role in the resistance. The diversity of tactics with solidarity actions across the German territory and even beyond made the difference. From the occupations to the forest walks, actions against companies that supplied the cops and RWE with lifting ramps for the evictions and even the court cases of organizations like BUND (Yes even when I do not agree with BUND, the court cases helped), there was a wide diversity of tactics that brought us to this point.

The environmental movement is getting stronger and stronger but we have to be aware that a part of the movement believes in so-called green captialism. Corporate Watch wrote:

“Capitalism is fundamentally exploitative of people and the natural world, it is not and cannot be ‘green’. Green capitalism involves various institutions, including governments, corporations, think tanks, charities and NGOs, implementing policies, practices and processes to incorporate nature into capitalist market systems. It takes the same capitalist ideas and values that create environmental crises – i.e. continual economic growth, private property, profit and ‘free’ markets – and applies them to the natural world as a way to solve those crises. It serves to maintain capitalism’s dominance, both through finding new ways to generate profit, and as a way of protecting it from criticism of being environmentally destructive.”

Others believe in the rule of law and the state, not realizing that the very same rule of law and the state are the ones that brought us in this mess. The higher adminstrative court might have stopped the uprooting of Hambacher Forest for the time being. We still don’t know what the final court verdict will be. What we do know is that courts on the German territory and beyond took thousands of decicions against the environment in the past and I am sure they will continue to do that. We can’t rely on capitalism, the state or the so-called rule of law. We have to continue to build up the movement, organize ourselves from below and increase our resistance.

Although the state government and RWE are losing ground at the moment, it ain’t over yet. First of all the court rule is only temporarily, second: Coal power stations are still running. Third: The state and RWE are increasing the pressure on Kurt Classen, who is facing expropriation. Classen has a field directly at the edge of Hambacher Forest and refused to sell it to RWE. Instead he allowed activists to use his field and they created cultural space, homes, collective kitchens, libraries and many more things. The field, known as Wiesencamp or meadows, could be evicted tomorrow or in the days after that. Follow @HambiBleibt for updates.

The next major mobilization in Hambacher forest is scheduled from October 25 until October 29: Ende Gelaende calls for actions of mass civil disobedience against coal at RWE’s open pit mine.

Stay tuned!

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