During last forest walk (11/11/2018), two police officers participated. Constant calls and transpis made these contact officers realize that they had no business in the forest and then they went away towards the end of the walk.
What it means to people when police are in the forest can be difficult to understand for many people who have not had much to deal with police and were not involved in the evictions. For weeks the forest was besieged by hundertschaft-units (Units of the federal security alert police of about hundred officers), SEK, eviction tanks. Week-long eviction, that means sleep deprivation for many nights, psychological pressure and stress, to see how your friends are beaten up and the destruction of your home. This psycho terror by the police in recent months had traumatic consequences for many people. The Hambach Forest was and is a living space for many people, above all, a free space, which it is no longer, when police are walking by the forest.
Today there were many small rounds in which the topic “police in the forest” was discussed energetically and emotionally. Since many participators in the forest walk could not understand why we react this way, we want to make it clear once again, since today it was not really the right place nor enough tranquility for a detailed discussion of the topic.
So here again a text on a topic that has been discussed many times, but will never lose its topicality:
In the forest most people say: We do not talk to cops! And then there are always these nice, middle-aged people with safety vests, who walk along the forest walk and just want to talk. Talk to everyone. And talking can’t hurt, right?
It’s about time that we not only repeat our exclamation “We don’t talk to the police!” But explain also what makes us saying so. Because one thing is clear: If some talk to the police, the others would like to throw them out of the forest and others simply do not understand why we are just so rude to older people, then we are anything but a united resistance. And in this incapacitation, we play into the hands of the police and all other parties that still protect and promote lignite mining. We just want to try to explain a position that is often represented in the occupation. We know that many people in lignite resistance see things differently and do not want to condemn anyone who talks to the police. Instead, we want to promote an exchange and discourse in which we can all learn from each other and all sides are represented.
These nice, middle aged people have a name: contact officers. And lately they seem to multiply, contact officers everywhere, just talking everywhere, it does not hurt anyone after all. The question is, what does the police think about what they are doing?
Contact officers who are involved in policing political movements have several roles:
First of all, they improve the image of the police. They show understanding and willingness to compromise, and then, after alleged mistakes on our part, they withdraw their understanding and willingness to negotiate, with a high publicity effect. During the week-long eviction, images and reports circulated of massive police violence around Hambach Forest and the actions of Ende Gelände.
Many people who witnessed or followed the eviction have begun to doubt the legitimacy of the law enforcers. During the eviction, there were situations in which the police, broke the arms and ribs of people, cut safety ropes, prevented press and paramedics from doing their jobs, and made it impossible to sleep with noise and floodlights. During a tripod eviction an arm was broken, just because they did not want to move the lifting platform again. In another situation, a human whose neck was chained to a barricade. The police did not believe the warnings and so crowds of cops pushed and kicked against the barricades, making the barricade unstable and putting the life of the chained person in jeopardy.
This is just a small listing of acts in which the police acted disproportionately, ignoring warnings, endangering people, and denying them their rights.
A comprehensive, medial and concrete theming of the behavior on the part of the police has been lacking until now. How is it possible that all this, despite the many images and reports, continues to be regarded as exceptional cases and there is no discourse on the systematic violence? The police got faces now. The faces of the contact officers.
Sometimes the contact officers tell of their feelings. They tell about what scares them and what they want. That they are here to prevent crime and wish that everything happens peacefully. That they also like forests and young people who are committed to something. This allows them to develop people’s compassion. For the police, who have to carry out evictions and other operations in the Hambach Forest. Lack of understanding arises for these young, untamed, unreasonable occupiers, from whom must come the violence, because after all the police wishes so much a peaceful solution.
In sharp contrast to this is the image left by the police in the minds of most forest occupiers. Fully uniformed, masked, heavily armed human walls with their visor covering their faces, responding to conversational attempts with pepper spray and truncheons. When the police comes to the forest “to prevent crime”, then they have no faces, not even service numbers, to identify them. With the new police laws coming into force in the next few months, the police will get the most room for maneuver since the end of World War II. The police, who enters the forest, comes fully masked and with firearms. Interestingly, the police are again trying to depict a picture of us that resembles what they left behind in the forest. In this depiction, we are dehumanized, masked, faceless, violent-minded eco-terrorists, who leave a lot of trash behind them and are a threat to the population.
Imagine a masked policeman wearing a helmet and baton dressed in black talking to concerned residents or the press and telling them that they are just there to protect them. That does not work. That’s why there are contact officers.
Splitting of the movement
It works quite harmlessly by means of interested and empathic conversations. Because if the police with whom supporters talk, and also the activists they talk to are very nice people, then there must be a third group, from which all the violence emanates. Namely, how the cop then rushes to say, the “bad” activists. Pardon? Well, it’s quite logical. There are the good activists who talk to you, and then there are the violence-oriented ones, the hooded ones, those from the autonomous scene in Hamburg, Berlin and Leipzig (the ones known from the TV who always set cars on fire) those who throw stones and don’t care about the forest at all. And in the end, it’s them who are to blame for the situation escalating.
That is how quickly the public discourse shifts from the climate crisis that threatens our entire planet, to the question of why the young people on TV actually do not show their faces and what they have to hide. And all that because of the nice police people, who are so friendly and familiar in front of the camera, that blatant destruction by RWE and the police force during the eviction no longer seem so present and terrible.
For the resistance, any form of protest is important and necessary, whether as a militant action, peaceful sitting blocks or people who supply us with food and other things. It is a great risk for politicians to gamble away the favor of the voters and thus the influence of power. That’s why they need another reason to evince the forest than a trivial economic interest, one that people understand. Namely us, the violent, hooded riot tourists.
If the resistance is divided, on the one hand in the democratically legitimated, peaceful protest and on the other hand in the bad and senseless violent protest, then only this enormous destruction of nature, resettlements and violence against people around the Hambach opencast mining can prevail with a certain social tailwind.
With the parties CDU (“christians”) and FDP (“liberals”) in the state government, politics has an interest in enforcing RWE’s demands. They do not want the Hambach Forest occupation and they command the police.
The alleged readiness of the police to negotiate is a farce. For as an executive organ it has no room for maneuver, but acts after the will of the government. We do not want to deny that a police officer personally really can like the forest and find coal stupid. But police officials will not stop acting as they are expected to, as long as they want to keep their jobs. And that is to prevent resistance and not to ask their own conscience for an individual decision. We do not think police officers are incurably bad people, but they chose to execute orders instead of thinking for themselves. Nobody is forced to be a cop.
Contact officials collect information, also and above all in nice, harmless conversations. Especially social structures, moods within the movement and interpersonal connections or difficulties are of great interest to the police.
Thus, our resistance to a huge global and local injustice is quietly and secretly infiltrated, without obvious violence, without the known images of injured activists and cut climbing ropes, only by a few nice people in safety vests, whom after all really no one could distrust.
The everyday brutality of the police has become much more visible in recent weeks. In the current quieter period after the eviction, the police are now again relying on citizen-friendly communication, but behind the packaging is still the same state body, which is responsible for the above-described systematic police violence and ensures that RWE can continue unhindered its environmental destruction.
Solidarize yourself with the people who do not want police in the forest and do not believe in their manipulation! We will not be divided but continue to work together against power elites in politics and economy that are destroying our planet.
~ some active people from the Hambach Forest