Do or Die

An article from Do or Die Issue 6. In the paper edition, this article appears on page(s) 110-111.

Thüringen: Thoughts and impressions about an anti-road tree camp

After you got a short survey about what's happening in good old Germany at the moment, you're now able to read the lines I wrote in the dark and damp cellar of the DO or DIE Headquarters; not allowed to leave until the article was ready. I put all my lousy English together and turned back time to the beginning of autumn last year.

In September of 1996 a handful of powerful activists started to initiate an as yet unknown kind of resistance, the squatting of trees to save them from the stupidity of politics personified in chainsaws. The trees of the "Bettelmanns Holz" forest are a part of the 'Thüringer Wald', one of the biggest still existing forests in Germany, and were expected to give way for the most expensive and destructive motorway in our history. The motorway from Erfurt to Coburg with 160 bridges and tunnels, 8,000,000 m3 of removed ground and thousands of killed trees should cost about 16,000,000,000 DM minimum. In the time when work was supposed to begin the first platforms were set up and people not only started a new form of resistance but also chose to live a real free life close to nature.

Unfortunately this life without electricity and other "benefits" of modern society lasted only three days. Then Hans-Peter, our slightly overworked local chief of police, ordered the first of four evictions because we didn't ask him before building the platforms!!! Despite the fact that the eviction-cops were from the SEK (an anti-terror-unit) they only managed to get down 3 of the 6 people up in the trees. Unfortunately there wasn't enough food and bedding around so the rest went down in the night. The cops learnt from this and during the reoccupation two weeks later the bastards only threw away all the food and blankets and waited for the cold night. One of us was prepared for this in the top of the 30 m high beeches, survived the night and was then joined by another one who managed to come through the cops who were observing on the ground. But also these two activists were evicted again after a short time.

The cops seemed to be very afraid of new occupations and therefore watched the forest with more than 70 cops day and night. But this still couldn't keep us from climbing the trees again on the day that the result of a court case about the ownership of the "Bettelmanns Holz" was expected. It was important not only for the life of the trees but also for us, that the court case against the building of the motorway by B.U.N.D., (a German group similar to Greenpeace), over who owned the land, would be successful; because then the trees would live and all former and probably forthcoming ocupations would have been legal. After it was sure that the trial was postponed the three of us left the trees because we did not have enough stuff for a longer occupation.

One week later the whole thing came to an end. Again four of us managed to climb the trees in the early morning of the 27th of November, despite there now being 100 cops with dogs and big floodlights. As expected the result of the the trial about the ownership of the "Bettelmanns Holz" was lost and a few minutes later the chainsaws started their work. Outnumbered by the Police we weren't able to do much. A number of women tried to break through the police line but were immediately stopped by the state's marionettes.

Only one managed to reach a digger and locked herself on for five minutes before she was taken away as well. The people in the trees were a bit desperate about the fucking situation going on on the ground. All the trees around the four squatted ones were cut and so two of us went down (with one of them managing to escape without giving his ID for criminalization). The two other stayed two days longer but under the cold blanket of 20cm of new snow and the impression of the horrible battlefield around them, they also came down and the fifth ocupoation ended.

During that period many other things happened. We were supported by most of the local residents in a really unexpectedly hospitable way. Along with warm clothes for the upcoming winter they even cooked vegan meals after they heard that a lot of us were vegan.

A blockade of the building site that lasted seven hours on Oct. 21th was added to the various forms of protest. On November the 17th a forbidden demonstration under the beeches took place because a local priest declared it as a mass [!] and so the 100 cops with their dogs weren't able to interfere. Only when people tried to climb the trees again did the police come in, and brutally cleared the ceremony where they also broke the arm of a participant. Most of the media were very sympathetic to our ideas and so one of the nice headlines the next day was the following: "Movie-like punch-up at mass". Also the local people organized nice agit-prop actions like pretending to cut the Christmas tree in the local market place. The distributed leaflet said that everything these damn ecologists say is rubbish, that the air cleans itself and that these stupid trees only stop progress. That's why the tree in the market place should be cut down to ensure that the traffic can flow freely. The funny thing about that was that the hardcore pro-road dummies didn't understand these satires at all and tried to threaten us (!!!) with calling the police.

Here the first chapter of the battle for a better future in the forests of Thüringen and life in general comes to its end. I think I have to add that unfortunately the whole security on the site is done by the police, which means these costs didn't appear in the working bills, but the 10,000 objections against the motorway shows a rising consciousness of the people. And last but not least the monkeywrenching of several diggers in January, which caused a total damage of £180,000, are a sign of a growing resistance which drives the economic and political price to the point where it's impossible to build any more roads and where we're able to rule our own lives!!!

The fight continues...

If you want to have further information on us or to join the new camp in spring of 1997 just contact us. Tel: 0171 823 4846.

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