Report: Hambacher Forest & Ende Gelände

Ende Gelände (EG)

A link to their website: https://www.ende-gelaende.org/en/

Last year, 1.300 people joined in to stop the coal mining for a day. This took 1.5 years of organization.
‘Resistance Rheinland’ started 6 years ago as a really small group. They started to organize climate camps and their first acts of civil disobedience. From this, Ende Gelände emerged, and now the organizers are trying to reach out to new people (also coalition building). They want to reach people outside the white middle class, and they want to involve the local habitants. There had been local struggle, but it was crushed and taken over by NGO’s.
– A lot of people were new to activism
– They spend a lot of time on teaching each other skills: action trainings
– They organized about 80 local info-events
– Their tactics are inspired by a Norwegian movement. ‘Flächenkonzept’ means that all the different groups that take place have their own place and tactics in the action.

The next mass action will take place near the Polish border in May (see their website for info). People are trying to sell the mine, but the activists are the ‘investment risk’ now. This will be a peaceful action, but there is a risk to get arrested (based on last years).
After that, they will organize a big climate camp in August 2017.

Hambacher Forest (HF)

A link to their website: http://hambachforest.blogsport.de/

The forest counted 8000 hectares, but because of the ever-expanding mine, only 700 are left. Many activists work together in trying to save what is left of the forest. 4 years ago, the first occupation and festivals took place. It grew a little bigger every year, and now people live there permanently, there are tree-houses in all sizes. They even had a tunnel action. Besides, they squat instruments, excavators, trains, conveyor belts etc. and put nails in the trees.
Their focus is on the cutting season that runs from October to February.

Unfortunately, the RWE (the organization that is exploiting the mine), the police and parts of the local politics work closely together.

Discussion/questions

HF: how does the squatting trees work?
– We build houses at heights between 12 and 25 metres, even proper houses where people can live permanently.

HF: what happens with the wood?
– Bought up by multiple companies, but we drive nails in them to make them useless.

HF: aren’t there laws in Germany that prevent deforestation?
– Officially they have to replant a tree for each one they cut, but they’ll do that by building an artificial mountain with mine waste and planting trees on top of it. The forest is protected, but the German mining law says that cutting is all right if it is in the interest of the majority of the people or the economy, which is in their opinion the case.

HF & EG: what do you want to achieve?
– HF: no more cutting down of trees, getting more people involved and getting more militant.
– ED: we have a real chance to stop the companies, because they are already struggling. We want to build up a really broad climate movement. Taking part is really empowering for people, because coal mines are vulnerable enough to be actually stopped during an action. Mass scale direct action!

HF & EG: do the companies you fight against go to court?
– EG: yes, that already happens, people had to sign a contact or pay a huge fine. But there is not very much legal repression (yet).
– HF: they realize nobody has money and nobody pays. Besides, when people are arrested, they mostly don’t show ID’s.

Did they try to frame the protest as being antidemocratic?
HF: the Green Party wants to bring peace back to the forest and plays a mediating role. They create a (fictional) division between violent and peaceful activists, which is harmful for the movement.

What is the relation between Ende Gelände and Hambacher Forest?
– They are both important, different kinds of expression of discontent. An interesting fact is that both movements are pulling new people in. But because both actions are in Germany and started out with German activists, we do not have enough experience yet to fully inform international people about legal consequences of their actions in Germany. But sometimes you can use the confusion this creates on the side of the authority!

EG: how do you show solidarity with other struggles that take place all over the world?
– By talking about broader concepts, i.e. energy in general instead of just coal. But it’s something that is hard to do, a challenge to find new ways to do this.

Do you have a communication strategy? Connection struggles worldwide?
– HF: there are people who work on press issues, and for more militant actions they write communiqués to explain our actions.
– EG: this is a challenge for the coming years, now there is a solid base, we need to connect it to other struggles. We also want to make our organization more horizontal. It’s definitely better to connect actions bottom-up than through NGO’s. Example: people in Nantes already connected with people in Peru.

What can we do for you?
-EG: also take action in places in the Netherlands (Groningen, ports) and Belgium. The trainings are also crucial, so you can organize those and help networking.
– HF: the cutting season lasts about 150 days, so next year, they want to have 150 groups to defend the forest for one day each. You can also take action in NL, Essent is a daughter company of RWE.