The Europe-wide alliance "Ende Gelände" exerts pressure for the energy transition by means of civil disobedience. The main demand is an immediate phase-out of fossil fuels. In the Rhineland, where several of the ten largest CO2 polluters in Europe are located, five more villages are to make way for the expansion of the coal company RWE. The participants* use their bodies as blockades to prevent this in a peaceful protest. Despite cold, rain and strict Corona regulations, about 3,000 activists gathered at decentralized points of contact and then set off in groups of about 200 people each. A colleague joined the demonstration and shares her impressions of the weekend here.
On Friday afternoon, I board the train at Cologne's main station. I don't know what to expect. How many days will I be on the road? Where will I go? Nor do I have any idea that this uncertainty will last until I set off for home again. Nevertheless, I have the feeling that something big is happening with this movement. Ende Gelände is internationally known and is seen in the research literature on environmental movements as an exemplary bridge between a solid understanding of environmental theory and the necessary social basis. This is worth fighting for.
On site everything is well organized. Action training, group talks, food, very short and stormy night in the tent. At 4:30 a.m. the alarm clock rings. The first group has already stomped past our tent. In 20 minutes we line up. With how much weight can I run? What do I need to stay warm? Already at the station we have police contact and from this point on we are under constant observation. After a few kilometers through villages and fields, everything is wet, heavy and full of mud. It rains continuously. At some point, questions arise in our group about our own motives. "Because no one else is doing it," says one environmentalist.
Shortly after, we reach a road. On the horizon, the smokestacks of the Weisweiler coal-fired power plant leave their noxious clouds of steam. Without any particular incident, the police encircle us. A few minutes later, two huge water cannons and an evacuation vehicle drive up in front of us. We are frozen through and do not know how long we will be stuck here. Our feet are wrapped in gold shimmering heat blankets and taped shut. It is still unclear whether we will spend the night outside. After it is determined that it will take some time, we fortify ourselves with cookies and spread out our rescue blankets. Shortly around we become the party group and dance ourselves warm. The mood is good despite everything, we remain peaceful. A golden, bouncing bunch.
About three hours later: The group has decided to hold a spontaneous demonstration. We receive another group at the Aachen train station. A great moment. Then we split up: part of the people move to the detention center for a vigil, the other part walks together back to the camp. I decide to go home, but about 100 meters from the station we are surrounded again. According to the police to determine the nature of the gathering. No one is allowed to leave. Also not home. Eventually we are escorted to the camp.
In total I was on the road for 34 hours and was glad when I was back in Cologne on Saturday night. It's shortly after 12. Other groups had a less smooth time. They report that the police used violence in many cases. Similar things are later confirmed in the press.
This weekend, at least five of the 14 groups reached their targets. These included a conveyor belt, rails, coal excavators and also a restaurant threatened with demolition. For the first time, natural gas infrastructure was also blocked, such as the construction site of a natural gas pipeline and the entrance to a gas-fired power plant. From Ende Gelände's point of view, natural gas is too often presented as a climate-friendly energy source, but like coal and oil, it is a fossil fuel and therefore both finite and harmful to the climate. This is especially the case when it is extracted by fracking or transported over long distances. For me, one thing is clear: the rapid phase-out of coal, oil and natural gas is unavoidable. Instead of subsidies for RWE and Co. and a soft exit from coal, this requires effective investments in the future technologies of renewable energies and the associated regulatory framework.