I really should have been there. That was all I could think about after last year’s Ende Gelände. Seeing all the videos, pictures and hearing personal stories from my friends really made me feel I missed out on something. So this year I would be there. Not a doubt in my mind.
I wanted to have the full EG experience so I made sure that I was on the first bus to arrive. Meeting old friends, new friends, form affinity groups, find a wonderful buddy, helping out with making overalls and masks, hearing rumours about secret missions but all in all being pretty much in the dark about what was going down were pretty much what the first days at the Lauzitz Klima Camp consisted of.
But I wanted to do more. An action like this is nothing without stories and images, personal accounts. If people don’t know why we are doing this and that we are ordinary people that feel that they have to do this, why would they even consider doing it themselves? So when the opportunity came to be one of the people in the big action group with a smartphone to take live action pictures I jumped at it.
On Friday afternoon it went down. We were going into the mine to one of the huge diggers which I had seen before on our tour around it. Adrenalin got flowin’, we were pumped up, ready to go. We left the camp with people applauding us. Wow, this is great. They support us. On roads, through forests & fields, splitting up into a red and blue group and as we walked through the forest all of a sudden there it was. The mine.
I had seen video’s of last year with pepper-spraying, baton-wielding cops and I knew that was possible this year as well. So I was a bit nervous. But none of it all. We had one police van driving behind us saying that we had to stop. Fat chance mate. We are unstoppable, another world is possible.
So there we were, on the edge of the mine, and we could just walk straight into it. This wasn’t what I had expected. A walk in the park, albeit a very dusty park. After a while we reached a digger which we could occupy quite easily. We climbed on top of it, put our banners up, made a great deal of pictures, welcomed the dixies that were there and some even played a game of soccer.
That was great but was it all just symbolic? Would they just let us get on with our stuff and resume business as usual? I didn’t know. I did hear that another finger had occupied a digger on the lowest level and they were in there for the long haul and that I had made quite a few pictures that were tweeted so we must have some impact. Just too bad Vattenfall didn’t have some proper WIFI set up and we lost all connection when we arrived at the digger.
After a while we decided to move on to the green finger which was occupying the filling station where the trains were loaded with coal for the powerplant. The digger we occupied was about halfway down the mine so we still had quite a walk. Forty days in the desert got nothing on us!
Reaching the filling station I was amazed at how much coal dust there was. Did any of it actually get on the trains? Meeting my friends, they told me that they had not met any resistance getting there and that the worst they had had to deal with was the dust and after we arrived quite a heavy rainshower. But they were there to stay. Little did they know for how long.
Exhausted a small part of my action group decided to go back to the camp and that’s when we actually saw the first signs of police. People were trying to take much needed food to the green action group but police were trying to block them. Running through pepperspray these brave people actually managed to get behind the cobble stone blockade to deliver the food. It definitely got my adrenalin pumping again.
I had mixed emotions though. Would what we did be enough? Would word of this go beyond the usual group of activists? The next morning we woke up early. Had a quick meeting, formed a new group and went on a mission. One of us had an action camera and we would shoot some footage and return to the camp to edit the video.
Well, best laid plans and all… It turned out we stayed there for a bit longer. We ended up on the rails where the coal trains are unloaded at the power plant. A really strategic position. Some of us went on a recon mission and found a coal train on the tracks around the corner. If we could stop this train we might take our action beyond symbolism and have a real, tangible impact. Exciting stuff.
It was said that the plant only had a limited supply of Lignite in storage to keep it running full blast. So if we stayed long enough… We might be able to shut it down. But we hadn’t really prepared for this. Thanks to a great tip from one of my Greenpeace buddies I had a pre-paid action phone on me so I could reach someone in the camp to grab our sleeping bags. Life saver. Hero. You know who you are. We can’t thank you enough.
So there I was. With a group of friends, sleeping on the railwaytracks, which aren’t made for that purpose. Who would have thought that I, a part-time activist with a 9-to-5 job, would ever feel the urge to do this. Normally I dress up as a tree, a bee or a polar bear. But I really feel that we need to do this, shut down the fossil-fuel industry, if we want a chance at a decent future.
We made it through the night, using each others body heat. Snug as a bug in a rug. Leaves underneath us, wearing all clothes, good sleeping bags and a lot of humor. Just don’t move too much when you’re the humus in between the sandwich. Or coordinate with your friends in the sandwich that you all move together.
In the mean time the plant had to scale down. Only one of the cooling towers still produced clouds but way less than it normally does. They were running out of coal! We f***ing did it! “Who shuts shit down? We shut shit down!” We had proven that a relatively small group of determined people could achieve things that they themselves hadn’t thought possible.
We stayed on for a bit in the blockade. An orchestra / choir showed up and even though we were really tired we enjoyed ourselves. In the end it was decided we would leave as a group to join the orange group at the other blockade on the railbridge. Fastest way to get there would be to walk down the tracks past the power plant. But Team Blue didn’t agree with that and wanted to play a little game of tag instead.
I guess they won. They surrounded us and we all got arrested. We were over a hundred people without ID’s on them and cat face’s painted on their face. So when they processed us I guess they saw that it wasn’t going to work. When the first bus left we still thought we were going to the police station. But to our surprise the friendly neighbourhood copper dropped us of rather close to the camp and told us to go take a shower. Were we smelly?
We all received a heroes welcome at the camp and had a great party. We did it! I was elated! Through the joint effort of some 3500 people, some of them taking care of the camp, some occupying the filling station for 48 hrs, some sleeping on a digger at the bottom of the pit, some sleeping on the tracks, we closed down the Schwarze Pumpe, one of the most polluting, Lignite operated power plants in Europe. We couldn’t have done it without a single one of them!
What’s next? We definitely made the press back home. We were on the news and in quite a few newspapers! But there is still a lot of work to do. In the Netherlands we recently opened a couple of new coal powered plants, there are still old ones running, we are still depending on the gas from I with all the consequences for the people living there. I don’t know what we are going to do but it is sure that we are going to do something.
We need to break free from our addiction to fossil fuels. We need to do it quick. We don’t have much time left. But I will be there. Together with thousands of people. Fighting for our last chance as we are the first generation that sees the effects of climate change and the last generation that can actually do something about it!
Next year when there will be the next Ende Gelände, if it is still necessary, I won’t have to say: I should have been there. But I can tell that I was there: Ende Gelände 2016. Part of a worldwide turning point in history, where we the people, said, enough is enough. Ende Gelände!
If you want to stay up to date about what other Dutch people got up at Ende Gelände to check http://www.wijgaannaareg.nl every now and then.