Tree houses in the Hambacher Forst will be cleared on Thursday

Tree houses in the Hambacher Forst will be cleared on Thursday

DThe police have begun clearing the protest camps of brown coal activists in the Hambach Forest. The officers arrived early Thursday morning with a large contingent, and in the meantime the police cleared a first tree house of the occupants. An activist, who previously sat on the platform on top of the tree trunk, had climbed off just before the police operation, said a police spokesman. An arrest therefore did not exist. This is the first of the symbolic buildings of brown coal mine opponents vacated. Another policeman brought the police from a platform. He had not resisted. Among other things, a platform attached to three tree trunks was to be dismantled, as a police spokeswoman announced.

Several initiatives announced a "nationwide mass mobilization" in response to the police deployment. From the weekend there will be "actions of mass civil disobedience," said Jan Puetz from the action underwood. In order to legally stop the eviction at the last minute, two urgent applications were filed on Thursday. "The chamber is now deliberating on it," said a spokeswoman for the administrative court in Cologne. A decision should be made as soon as possible. It is unclear whether this is still possible in the course of Thursday. The spokeswoman did not want to comment on who submitted the applications.

For the police it is one of the biggest missions in recent NRW history. Water cannon and heavy sweeper are on site.

The police expected a multi-day mission, in which also forces from all over Germany must be resorted to.

A total of up to 3,500 civil servants will be deployed today, said the GdP country chairman Michael Mertens, the TV broadcaster WELT. There are also so-called height intervention teams ready, which are trained for such operations.

On Thursday morning, the town of Kerpen began informing the tree-trollers about the eviction order. The activists were told by bullhorn to leave the tree houses voluntarily within 30 minutes, said a spokesman for the competent city of Kerpen.

"If they do not come down voluntarily, then we'll use the police to clear the tree houses." In this way, you will work through the 50 to 60 tree houses step by step. "Then the tree houses are rendered useless," said the spokesman.

Activists let ultimatum pass – police clears seat blockade

The tree-trollers let the ultimatum of the authorities pass. Even after the deadline, they sat in the buildings and announced resistance. A sitting blockade of the demonstrators was dissolved. The activists who blocked a way to the tree houses were carried away by forces. They did not fight back. Previously, the police had cleared barricades constructed of logs of wood.

"For many, that's their home. There are people who have lived here for six years, "said Freddy, who stayed on a tree trunk about ten meters high on Thursday. The tree houses have become a well-known symbol throughout Europe.

North Rhine-Westphalia's prime minister Armin Laschet (CDU) had previously described the treehouses of lignite miners in the Hambacher Forst as "illegally occupied areas". Out of the tree houses, there have been attacks on policemen for days, Laschet replied on Wednesday evening in the bourgeoisie "WDR Arena" to the question of a possible eviction. The tree houses are also uncertain.

Even during Lachet television appearance was known that the years of tolerated tree houses to be cleared at short notice. A corresponding instruction was sent to the responsible building authorities on site on Wednesday evening, said a spokesman for the NRW Ministry of Construction on request of the German Press Agency. Among other things, the eviction with lack of fire protection is argued.

In the autumn, the energy company RWE wants to cut more than half of the remaining forest in order to dig more coal. Laschet again pointed out that RWE has the right to clear. "The state government is there to enforce the law that applies," Laschet said.

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Hambacher Forst

In autumn, the energy company and forest owner RWE wants to clear more than half of the remaining forest area in order to continue dredging lignite. On the other hand, protests have been going on for a long time.

Hambacher Forst

One of the environmental activists in the Hambacher Forst

Source: dpa / Christoph Reichwein

Hambacher Forst

Source: dpa / Christophe Gateau

Activists have built treehouses at high altitude and keep the forest occupied. Before it can be cleared, therefore, must be cleared. This is extremely difficult because of the height of the huts and the expected resistance.

Lack of fire protection

The now planned eviction is legally not about RWE and lignite. Rather, the Ministry argues, according to the city of Kerpen and also affected district Düren, among other things, the lack of fire protection in the tree houses. After an on-site appointment, the Ministry had come to the conclusion that the huts were structural facilities within the meaning of the NRW Building Code.

According to the building code, the tree houses would have to have rescue stairways and railings. In addition, escape routes for fire and ambulance must be available. Because this is not the case, there would be "concrete dangers" for the inhabitants. Therefore, the building authorities of the city Kerpen and the district Düren would have to clear the tree houses without time delay, argues the ministry.

This must be implemented by the building authorities of the town of Kerpen and the district of Düren, on whose territory the Hambach Forest is located. They asked the Aachen police for enforcement assistance to clear the houses and eliminate them.

"Extremely violent left-wing extremists"

Time and again the police reported attacks on police officers in the forest. NRW Interior Minister Herbert Reul (CDU) warned that it was dealing with "extremely violent left-wing extremists" who traveled from all over Germany and neighboring countries.

The dispute over the Hambach Forest could also disturb the work of the so-called coal commission, although the topic is not officially on the agenda there. The economy, climate campaigners, politicians and those affected should agree on a way out of coal-fired production by the end of the year. The environmental organizations involved are calling for a postponement of deforestation until that's done – they think the forest might stop when older power plants are shut down.

The environmental organizations in the Commission have adopted symbolic tree sponsorships in the Hambacher Forst. It is conceivable that one or more environmental representatives leave the Commission when RWE clears. A broad social consensus would then be endangered.

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