Clashes have kicked off today against a massive deforestation campaign in Hambach, following the loss of a court case aiming to put a stay on redevelopment of the 12,000-year-old woodlands into a coal mine.
Preparations for the clearance and eviction of forest protectors by RWE so they can turn most of it into a massive surface mine began yesterday with bushes being cleared to make way for later clear-felling. Protectors who have set up in the 33 mile-forest zone say preparations for a massive police action were obviously building last week, and cops have announced that they want to evict the whole occupation.
The Hambach occupation has been ongoing since 2012 when it became clear that the last vestiges of ancient forest, west of Cologne, was being targeted for highly polluting lignite extraction. The bitter struggle has seen everything from political lobbying and court cases, non-violent direct action and land occupation, all the way up to sabotage.
During the initial protests on Saturday several protectors were arrested including an entire crew of people detained following their blockade of a coal firm train on a nearby railway line — though several were released in short order. Resistance elsewhere successfully forced two clearing machines to back off and barricades were built across a nearby highway, forcing an early police withdrawal.
An emergency Saturday court case temporarily slowed the operation on Saturday, with all activists being released from jail, but on the Sunday a heavy police presence enabled RWE to start the cutting of a number of trees at the border of the mine. This continued on Monday, with police going so far as to exclude journalists from the area. A “green finger” of protesters attempted to restart a blockade at the access road, but were met with pepper spray.
RWE (previously Rheinbraun) bought the forest from surrounding parishes in 1978. Since then it has been cleared bit by bit to make space for lignite extraction. Less than one tenth of the once 5,500ha forest remains today. While deforestation is only permitted between October and March, RWE has been clearing forest illegally outside of this period in recent years. If the mine continues as planned the remaining forest will be destroyed by the end of the decade.
A regularly-updated ticker is being maintained at hambi bleibt.
There is a daily protest vigil/picket 8am–5pm at the crossing of Werkstraße and the road to Morschenich. Telephone: +49 152 18 99 50 45
Pics: Police-protected deforestation in 2016 by Hambacher Forst