Wuppertal. Germany. More than five hundred people gathered on Sunday, January 2 at 2 p.m. for a rally at the station forecourt in Wuppertal Vohwinkel. Afterwards, the demonstration led directly to the occupied Osterholz, where the demonstration was followed by a walk in the woods.
Note from Enough 14: In the coming days, the Osterholz Bleibt alliance will release an initial statement about the role of a person named Jojo during the demo. The statement will be published on https://osterholzbleibt.org.
Among the participants were also activists from various protests who are involved in the preservation of forests and villages elsewhere, such as the Hambach Forest, near Kassel or in Lützerath in the Rhenish lignite mining area.
The Wuppertal climate justice group DAR JÎN (Kurdish for “tree of life”), organized with Ende Gelände, also showed presence with its own banner. Also present was a local group of the grassroots trade union FAU, which in recent times has also been displaying flags in the colors purple-black (anarcha-feminist) and this time, fitting to the occasion, the green-black variant (eco-anarchist).
Party advertising, on the other hand, was not seen. On some banners, cardboard signs or on imaginatively designed green umbrellas it was announced that all forests and especially the Osterholz should remain and thereby, indeed “Every tree counts”. In English it read: It ́s not economy. It ́s ecology, as well as the demand: Planet over profit.
Many citizens of different ages from Wuppertal and the surrounding area also took part in the protest.
The opening rally was musically accompanied by four musicians from the Wuppertal political satire band Fortschrott, which was founded in 1977. Two band members are regulars at the Osterholz protests and they also contributed the Osterholz bleibt – hymn (loosely based on the Rauchhaus song by Ton Steine Scherben). The open music and action group “Lebenslaute“, which was founded in 1986, gave a short concert inside the train station and later also performed in the forest.
In her speech, a representative of the citizens’ initiative “Osterholz bleibt” (Osterholz stays) once again settled accounts with political parties and environmental protection associations that have hardly campaigned for the preservation of the forest. The Greens, who provide the mayor in Wuppertal, who was also the candidate of the CDU in the last election, want to be understood as an ecological party. In order to get an idea of a party like the Greens, it was not even necessary to go into the fact that they themselves voted in 2019 in the Urban Development, Economy and Construction Committee, with the exception of one abstention, in favor of uprooting the Osterholz forest. According to a secret agreement with the company Oetelshoven, the Green mayor sees the clearances as without alternative. In its statement, the party claimed that forest protection would be its first priority. It hides behind legal regulations that according to the Greens do not currently allow the forest to be saved.
The speech also made clear that existing regulations for climate protection are being undermined by completely contradictory laws that safeguard economic interests. A small forest simply has no lobby and ecological interests are subordinated to economic interests. If the Higher Administrative Court in Münster now states that five hectares of mixed forest have no relevance for climate protection, the overall context is completely misjudged. Even limited to the Wuppertal city area, several areas are at risk of being uprooted in the near future.
It was also pointed out that the city of Haan had rejected a clearing on its city territory in 2019, which is why no trees will be cut down there. Stimulated by this statement, the applause for the city officials at the rally was nevertheless too euphoric. In 2013, the city of Haan itself still waived an objection to a clearing of 3.5 ha of the Osterholz.
The speech of the citizens’ initiative again referred to the farce of the round table. It was set up with the intention of jointly developing alternatives that would save the forest. After politicians and companies, in a secret agreement, decided in favor of uprooting the forest, the next round table meeting has become obsolete. The company Oetelshoven itself has consequently cancelled its participation long ago. The fact that political circles, such as the Green mayor, nevertheless want to continue these talks with committed residents of Osterholz and the citizens’ initiative is pure PR. It is probably also a clumsy attempt to influence the protest and thus successfully divide it.
But this attempt to divide the movement will not succeed! This should have long been clear to those responsible for eviction and clearing and was once again clearly demonstrated on January 2. After the CDU demanded from the bourgeois part of the protest to distance themselves from the radical forest squatters, the speaker of the citizens’ initiative renewed their solidarity. It was emphasized that without the occupation the forest would have been cleared already in the fall of 2019. Therefore, it seems to be the only form of action to preserve this forest.
In addition, the participants of the demo were informed that a complaint would be filed with the Federal Constitutional Court. It is expected from the company Oetelshofen and the politically responsible authorities that at least this decision will be awaited before the start of the clearing work.
During the kick-off rally, money was also collected for Osterholz activists who are affected by repression. The background is that in the context of the Osterholz- Bleibt demo on June 12 in the city center of Wuppertal, several demonstrators were controlled by the police, who were allegedly associated with the forest occupation. Three people were even temporarily taken into custody at that time, with the accusations of having violated Corona regulations, but also because they had allegedly masked themselves.
Then the demonstration marched to the Osterholz forest, 3 km away. The forest walk ended near the occupation and was welcomed with two green smoke flares. In their speech, the local chapter Fridays for Future Wuppertal referred to the climate report of the German Weather Service commissioned by the city of Wuppertal. According to this report, the local temperature increase since 1961 is already 1.4 degrees. The effects are not of an abstract nature. Even today, the experience of the younger generation differs considerably from the stories told by their parents, for whom extreme heat days were still the exception. What the human-made climate catastrophe means globally has long been scientifically substantiated.
The Wuppertal chapter of Scientist for Future additionally pointed out the importance of small forest areas for the climate of a city like Wuppertal, which have a cooling effect. Meanwhile, the existing mines and slag heaps are heat islands. (see also their recent publication on this).
A member of the Armin T. Wegner Society, not only noted that the pacifist writer born in 1886 in Elberfeld (City district in Wuppertal) and co-founder of the “Bund der Kriegsdienstgegner” (organization of radical conscientious objectors) had already foreseen the dire consequences of the overexploitation of nature in his time and was able to substantiate this with a few lines of text. In the speech it was also stressed that the protest meanwhile arrived internationally, because e.g. also the us-American sister society was interested in it. The fact that the struggle for the Osterholz has long had supra-regional significance can also be proven by numerous texts about the struggle for the preservation of the Osterholz on various anarchist and libertarian internet sites such as A las barricadas, Contra Madriz, Squat.net, Indymedia Netherlands, Indymedia Athens, Anarchist News, Crimethinc or also Its going down. As well as the anarchist squatters themselves always regularly express their solidarity with similar direct action global movements.
It should also be mentioned that the group Lebenslaute also performed a self-written song in the forest for “Ella“, who has been imprisoned since November 26, 2020. She had protested with many others against the uprooting of the Dannenröder forest, to give way to a highway. At the same time, it was pointed out that an eviction always means new cases of repression, which makes solidarity work necessary. The video of the contribution was uploaded on kolektiva.media.
Towards the end, the forest educator, who organizes the forest walks in Hambach Forest and the endangered villages, once again pointed out the hope that there had also always been reason to celebrate successes in recent times. The possibility that the beautiful Osterholz, for which in the meantime so pleasingly many are committed, still exists, he said.
A part of the forest walk visited the forest occupation. In doing so, they also actively support the ongoing preparatory work for the feared eviction of its structures and subsequent clearing.