Police use force to remove anti-coal mining protestors in German forest

Peaceful Assembly

For the past six years, activists have occupied Germany’s Hambach Forest, in an attempt to prevent the area from being destroyed through coal mining. This month, the ongoing forest protest made headlines after police used force to remove the occupiers. Hambach forest is the site of expansion plans by lignite coal mining company RWE. In mid-September police moved in to forcefully remove the protestors to make way for logging and eventually mining in the area.

On 19th September 2018, blogger and activist Steffen Horst Meyn died in a tragic accident when "rushing towards fellow forest defenders who were being evicted by the police". According to a press release on the protestors' website, he died while trying "to document an ongoing eviction action by the Special Task Force of Police (SEK)".

The eviction continued after a pause of just 24 hours for mourning. As efforts to clear the forest continued, forest defenders were dragged across the ground, with many injured in the process.

Despite the heavy-handed eviction attempt, Hambacher Forest protectors continued their protest. As treehouses were torn down, solidarity actions took place across the country, including occupations of the offices of the state of North Rhine Westphalia in Berlin and the Niederaussem power station, in which RWE’s coal is burnt. Large parts of the power station had to be shut down as a result. Thousands have also protested at the forest itself, to oppose the police's actions in attempting to evict the occupiers. 

A legal challenge by the protestors achieved success when, in early October, a court decided to temporarily halt RWE's clearance of the forest while it considered the merits of the case. RWE said that it believed it could take until 2020 to have a final decision in the case.