Filed under: International Coverage
Yesterday was the first forest walk after the eviction and the uprooting of a part of the Osterholz forest in Wuppertal, Germany. A rollercoaster of emotions. A short report.
I arrived in the stormy weather with pouring rain and I was delighted that nonetheless some people had come to the forest. In the pavilion I saw a few wreaths and some banners. One banner said: “Missing – Have you seen this forest? – 1500 souls”.
The forest walk started with a few speeches. The citizens’ initiative Osterholz Bleibt (Osterholz Stays) reported about their experiences with the police on the first day of the eviction. At the start of the eviction, the police ordered that the vigil by the citizens’ initiative had to be relocated outside of the forest. The citizens’ initiative refused. After negotiations, the police and the citizens’ initiative agreed on a new location for the vigil, about 150 meters away from the original location where the vigil had taken place daily basis since October 2021.
When the people arrived at that new location, the police suddenly said that they could not stay at the new location. People had enough of the harassment by the police and refused to go. The police forced the people to move about 50 meters more and cleared a sit-in.
During yesterday’s speech, a spokesperson for the citizens’ initiative said that this police action was unlawful, that the forestry authorities had stated in a letter to the police that gatherings and journalists had the right to stay in the forest as long as they stayed at least two tree lengths away from the logging zone. The original vigil was more than two tree lengths outside of this zone. Several journalists also complained that the police were preventing them from reporting on the eviction.
I wasn’t surprised about the police action during the eviction. I actually had expected that the cops would try to force us out of the forest completely. I had seen one of the managing directors of the limestone works, Oetelshofen, saying on TV that he would not start civil lawsuit against the forest squatters “as long as nothing happens anymore.” A perfidious form of blackmail, an attempt to make hostages of the forest squatters, held responsible for every form of action to preserve what parts of the forest are left after the uprooting operation by his company.
The perfidious methods of the Oetelshofen company became clear when a situation that took place a few days ago was described during one of the speeches during yesterday’s forest walk. A person who was sitting on a bank in the forest was approached by people in a car. He didn’t feel comfortable and decided to walk to the parking lot. His car was suddenly blocked in by another car, but there was a small gap that he used to drive away. He was pursued for a long time by the car that had tried to block him. When he came home, a police car stopped at his home. The police told him that somebody filed charges against him for impairing the safety of road traffic. That can only have been done by the car driver that was pursuing him. According to the person telling the story, it was somebody from the Oetelshofen company.
During yesterday’s speeches people were asked not to go into the forest alone, to make sure they would have eyewitnesses in case of possible actions by Oetelshofen to intimidate forest walkers.
The forest walk started moving, and first passed an already-fenced part of the forest. The fenced part of the forest is considered company property by Oetelshofen and is therefore threatened with uprooting. Till Iseke, one of the managing directors of Oetelshofen, made clear on TV that the company’s promise not to uproot further parts of the Osterholz forest is worth nothing. First he made an exemption for the company’s property, and later he even said: “I am somebody who says never say never.”
Immediately after the fenced part of the forest we passed the part that was uprooted about two weeks ago. Many people again and again went to the fence. They were shocked when they saw the trail of destruction that the action of Oetelshofen left behind: piled trunks of trees, small leftovers of trunks of trees still standing. A place of death, with many animals which were buried alive in their winter sleeping hideouts.
I felt bad. Two years of struggle to preserve this beautiful forest had come to an end. For a moment I couldn’t see all the things we have achieved. I just saw death and destruction. First a little crying immediately followed by rage. In the past two and a half years we fought for this forest, for the many forms of life in it. For the climate, for biodiversity. For the free space Osterholz Barrio. We have set the preservation of forests on the agenda on a local level in Wuppertal and the surrounding area. The movement is growing, and we will continue the struggle and fight for the remaining parts of the Osterholz forest, nut we are also aware that other forests around and in Wuppertal are also threatened: the forest that is threatened from the extension of the L419 road, the forest at Kaisershöhe threatened by the German Federal Garden Show and the green area “Kleine Höhe,” to name a few. The greenwashing by several companies and the local Green political party with their mayor will face stiff resistance.
The forest walk continued and ended with a moment of silence at a place from which you can see the entire destruction zone. More tears. A comrade was just staring at the destruction with tears in his eyes. My emotions again went from tears to rage. Pain. Rage. I embraced the comrade who was still starring into the black hole, and we left the death zone. The struggle continues.
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