Let us talk about repression. The life as a political active person in hambach forest belongs between the most beautiful times many of us got to experience – and leads just as often to the most horrible moments. We, who are writing this text, don’t talk about cold winter nights on semi-build plattforms; not about consecutive days of nothing but bread and tofu; not about arguments in relationships or lovesickness. We are talking about interference of police operations in our direct living space, about physical and mental injuries caused by cops, about court sentences, detentions. We are talking about the narrow edge between power, powerlessness and empowerment. About the fear of and traumata after encounters with those, whose aim is the safety of the state. (CN Description of (non)verbal violence, detention, cancer, opioides, wish to die, death. This is not primarily about Sonne/Steffen, but with this topic, we can’t but mention him)
While people in jail are mentioned in public opinion at least everey now and then – like e.g. Winter’s and Jazzy’s jail time during the big eviction in 2018 -, many long term effects of repression remain unknown. After the movement around Hambach Forest and climate justice in general grew big, in many spots we are missing a critical discourse about this topic.We see videos with sitting blockades during the eviction where activists sing “You are beautiful without your helmet and your baton” for the police. We see activists of Extinction Rebellion who thank the police for their own eviction (Why then block in the first place?) and actively work together with cops. This hurts. It belittles police operations and makes the injuries those same cops still cause elsewhere look harmless.
This Text aims to add a little bit more consciousness what repression can do to us activists. It tells about an extreme example of the experiences so many made during the eviction 2018. Steffen Meyn – Sonne – was not the only person who died in connection to the eviction. At the same time, we tell the story of a loved person. May the memories never fade.
For many month the hambach forest was the only place, where people would not look at Elf’s sickness. Instead of observing what it couldn’t do, people valued its abilities and value for the occupation. Similar to Remus Lupin – the werewolf in “Harry Potter” – Elf was not “the sick one” but an important part of the resistance. Elf built infrastructure and cooked, organised important ressources and did press work – just as other activists. Being physically active and through that nursing muscles relieved pain to an extent that would rarely have been possible in school, professional training school or college. For this text, we are afraid the illness has to play a big role.
Physical starting conditions
Elf had a Tumor, and took drugs that made it really sick, but at least stopped the tumor from growing, even before Elf came first into the forest. For a long time it seemed as if Elf would have to take those drugs until the end of its life. So, Elf was really glad when the tumore seemed gone and it could stop those drugs. Howevere some month later, in spring 2018, the tumor started growing again. With a heavy heart, Elf started taking mentioned drugs again and at least the openly visible symptoms faded.
After Hambi was declared a dangerous place, it became difficult to care both about ones health and home. Several other people smuggled the tumor drugs, that had to be cooled, as well as painkillers into the forest – under quite some personal legal risks, because possession of the latter is a crime unless you have a prescription.
Then came the eviction. For 12 hours Elf was locked on inside the treehouse NoNames, that had been its home for month. The first own home …
While some cops interacted to some extent professionally, the two special forces officers from Kassel, who were closest to Elf, seemed to be on a fun event. They were full of malice and sexist comments.
“Rollo” and “Uschi”, how they called themselves, just as many activists in the forest use self-given names, constantly played the schlager “Cordula Grün“ to Elf. For hours, they talked about a wedding between Elf and “Rollo” (with “Uschi” as best man).
They openly expressed their schadenfreude about the destruction and used mental pressure: “Oh, another tree is being cut – it’s your fault – if you just came out or would have never…”
After some misinformation all press and solidaric observers were gone, when Elf was brought down from the tree and to the detention center. Supporters later wrote on the Hambach Forest Account on Twitter:
„Also this is important: While at the beginning of the week during the eviction of #Gallien we thought already at evening, the treehouse NoNames had been evicted, the eviction of the Lock On device started only 10pm. When at 6am you came down from the tree, you were completely alone with police, RWE and the destruction of everything that was and is so important to you and us. We would have liked to be there for you. We are sorry.”
This afternoon, our friend Sonne, the journalist Steffen Meyn, died. Dokumentation of evictions by press is often extremely helpful for activists – with a camera running cops often dare less to use way too much physical violence. Sonne knew that. In the hastened attempt quickly to climb to a spot from where he could film the ongoing eviction, he fell from a bridge.
From this time we quote accounts of different people from the legal team – a legal support structure for activists:
1. The first call by Elf from detention is almost standard for me. It is only surprising, because at that time I was sure Elf was out, because another person hat reported similar medical needs. Elf is held in a collective cell, which sounds good under the circumstances of detention. It mentions to be mentally completely down, but otherwise I don’t recognise that. Elf is glad that I, a former affinity person, answered the phone.
2. Then another call from detention. As I pick up, the person on the other side just asks: “Was it Sonne?” I said yes, glad that a supporting person immediatly told us the forest name, so at least I didn’t have to check in this situation. I took the phone from the office, could not stand other people around me. Nothing had prepared me for having to tell a detained person about the death of their friend. We talked a bit. At least the police was not completely impious this time. I was overstrained, didn’t know what to say. Often, we just sat silent, but I wanted to make them feel that I’m there, that we mourn together. It was no call I could stall, like it was sometimes necessary to get the line clear. I felt so sorry for that person, with a friend dead and completely uncertain if they would be released (Was in solitaire detention with with more severe accusations, they were threatened with jail). I don’t remember what exactly I said, but at the end the person thanked me for taking time, so maybe it was not completely wrong. That call threw me off the tracks – until today the memory sometimes disturbs me.(Source (in German))
3. When the support people in front of the detention center call to mark Elf as free, I ask to speak to it in person. At that time, the legal time limit for detention is already exceeded by 10 hours. For me, this call belongs to the worst legal team jobs of my life. I remember Elf bursting into tears mid-sentence and one sentence it spoke: „I really should have killed myself earlier“
After a week that was mainly filled with pain, emptiness and apathetically sitting around, Elf took to one of the few things that still seemed to make sense in a way. Elf snuck back into the forest. Locked on in the treehouse Zweigheim, Elf met “Rollo” a second time. Besides the obligatory playing of “Cordula Grün”, “Rollo” became physically obtrusive: “Should I support your back?” he asked and moved close to Elf.
After the eviction
Directly after the eviction of NoNames Elf was very introverted, stiff, had no interest in going on. Its reaction on the endless back and forth between group cells and solitary detention at the police was “Doesn’t matter, if they finally put me in jail”. In front of the police station Elf met loved comrades, broke down in tears for a short moment and continued for days just staring into the void. During those first days, Elf was barely capable of shortest ways of few meters between bed and bathroom, so heavily did it lack physical, mental and spiritual strength.
At some point the physical pain from tumor and drugs were indistinguishable from psychosomatic pain of grief. Consumation of opioides and, following, psychoaktive effects like mood swings from keyed up giggling to miserable crying increased. Of course, the traumata of the first treehouse eviction could not be compensated by continuing to fight. The eviction continued. Sonne remained dead.
After being unpleasantly removed from a tree a second time by “Rollo”, Elf secluded itself from all but the very closest affinity persons, was oblivios to anything but the pain.
In the following month, Elf never recovered from the eviction and the loss of its home. On the worst days Elf did almost nothing but to cry – if it even had strength for crying – and said “I want home”.
Elfs level of energy was never restored. Until the end it was hard to distinguish which pain was psychosomatic and which origined from the tumor. Everything ran into a vicious circle: Lack of energy and pain condemed to doing nothing, which led to remaining in powerlessness without any (also political) actionability which was always very important for Elf. There even were no capacities for psycho-emotional rehabilitation. Because of the physical inactivity it came to further degradation of the body conditions. Muscle gain would have boosted pain relief and movement capabilities, but this led to more lack of energy, powerlessness and pain.
At the end of october the pain was so strong, Elf went to hospital on its own. New opioids brought limited relief. The special drugs that fought the tumor stopped working altogether – in any case the tumor grew visibly from week to week by November.
Dependend on special medical institutions Elf could not stay in the area close to the forest, where it would have been easier to meet others from that community Elf lived and loved in prior to the eviction. Maybe such meetings could have brought relief. Some close affinity persons did not leave Elf alone, others came for visits.
The irresistibly growing tumor met inattentive physicians. At the beginning of february 2019 Elf died after an infection of the cerebrospinal fluids, a scheduled operation was not possible any more.
A bit later the body of a friend of Elf was found. They had known each other from the forest. A cause of death could not be found. The friend hat suffered from depression since the eviction; friends of him told us, that he had finally broken down after the message of Elfs death and never recovered.
Since the eviction startet, the anyways mentally burdened activists around the Hambi lost until now five friends who were part of or close to the occupation. They died in political fights as well as physical and mental illnessses.
Elf had always wished to die in the forest.
Elf, You would’ve rather died fighting for your beliefs like Remus Lupin than being killed slowly by the perfidios illness and your trauma.
We would not have begrudged it to you.
Rest in Power!