We feel with the relatives of Steffen/ Sonne #SteffenMeyn, who in this Open Letter to Prime Minister Armin Laschet and Minister of the Interior Herbert Reul express their thoughts and feelings about their experiences:
“Family Meyn, family Fritsche
To the State Chancellery of North Rhine-Westphalia
Prime Minister Laschet, Minister of the Interior Reul
Open letter by the relatives of Steffen Meyn
Steffen Meyn has been working for some time as part of his studies at the KHM (Academy of Media Arts) Cologne on a cinematic documentary about the life the of tree house people in the Hambach Forest. Their aim is to prevent the clear cutting of the forest for the purpose of producing lignite. When the tree houses were cleared by police, these events were also part of his cinematic observations.
Steffen sympathized with the goals of the tree house residents, because he shared their attitude towards a resource-saving life. He was a Christian believer, consistently vegan with great respect for creation. As a student of the KHM Cologne he had a press card. Since the press work during the eviction, according to his statement and that of other journalists, was increasingly hampered by police barriers and being an experienced climber, he climbed to one of the tree houses, in order to film from there the events without being hampered. To get a better view of the eviction of a neighboring tree house, he wanted to cross a suspension bridge, from where he plunged into the depths and succumbed to his serious injuries.
The pain and grief for us relatives are immeasurable.
The reason why we are now publicly speaking is because statements by state politicians and the behavior of authorities have intensified our grief and pain. And we do not want to leave what was published in connection with Steffen’s death on the part of the state government.
The accident happened at 4 pm. Around 7 pm, the relatives were informed by Steffen’s friends that it was him who had died after a crash. It was not until many hours after Steffen’s fall, shortly before midnight, that two police officers arrived at Steffen’s parents and officially confirmed his death, although there was no doubt about his identity because of his papers. It was agonizing hours while we relatives hoped that he might still be alive.
Against the will of the parents, his body was autopsied without justification. His all-around helmet camera and the police investigation clearly showed that no external influence had taken place. The knowledge of this in our eyes completely unnecessary and unlawful disturbance of the dead rest is weighing heavily upon us. The autopsy also meant that we could only see him and say goodbye several days after his death. Again a torturous time of waiting.
Unbearable we feel the entirely invented claim by the Interior Minister Reul, that the builders of the suspension bridge have to blame Steffen’s death. Also, his claim that activists made sardonic remarks about his death is an outrageous and proven false statement. We feel that he uses Steffen’s death to rush against the tree house residents. Even weeks after the event, Interior Minister Reul repeats these statements despite now clear evidence that these allegations do not correspond to the truth. This instrumentalisation of Steffen’s death for his own purposes triggers indignation and anger in us and does not allow us to recover. Minister of the Interior Reul, please refrain from this unworthy behavior and allow the family and friends of Steffen Meyn finally to have peace from your unqualified statements.
Also the claim of state authorities that there was no police operation near the scene of the accident turned out to be untrue.
When five days after Steffen’s death, the first relatives wanted to visit the place of the accident, the eviction was in course again. We were brought to the place of the accident accompanied by very friendly and considerate contact officers and forest residents. Because of the large numbers of police, the police people’s combat gear, the heavy and partly armored evacuation vehicles, the special riot units, the screams from the evacuation areas nearby, we felt like in a war zone. This burdened the visit, severely annoyed our grief and shocked Steffen’s parents deeply.
One day later, we heard that the memorial in the forest had to be dismantled, because also here had to be cleared. So our planted flowers had barely been allowed to stand for 24 hours. We found this extremely ruthless and irreverent, especially since not all relatives had been there to visit the memorial site and the place of the accident. Again we were hindered in our grief. The memorial, rebuilt under the evinced trees, showed a very different picture of the place of the accident. The fact that again the memorial has now been cleared by RWE employees leaves us stunned.
We are moved by the question of why the state government could not await the court verdict and the results of the coal commission before the eviction was ordered. On fire protection or construction defects one could have reacted also with discussions. For us these are ostensible reasons to enable RWE to deforest quickly. And that, even though the evacuation was highly risky, not only for the tree house residents, but also for the police officers. For nights, the people in the forest were kept awake with floodlights and sound systems. A dangerous strategy that reminds us of reports and documentations on psychological warfare, because moving at high altitude requires a high level of concentration. We ask here about the responsibility of the state government. Why this hurry, why this hard action?
Mr Laschet said shortly after the release of the clearing stop, now is the time for dialogue.
Mr. Laschet, the time for talks would have been before the eviction. Instead of criminalizing the tree house residents, you and your Minister of the Interior should have been searchinging for communication, waiting to see what the court decides about the deforesting and what the coal commission decides.
The task of the state government of North Rhine-Westphalia should be to develop intelligent concepts in order to provide workers in climate-damaging lignite mining with a professional perspective.
Instead, as we perceive it, the Minister of the Interior is using Steffen’s death to stir up the public opinion against the lignite opponents. We are resolutely rejecting that.
Family Meyn and family Fritsche
Langenfeld, Wien, Hannover, Neuschönau/Schönanger, November 26th 2018
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