Direct Action Shuts Down Coal Infrastructure in Germany

Viersen, Germany – [Updated 6/29/2019] This year’s #EndeGelaende event was the most logistically challenging ever, according to its organizers. Activists were repeatedly stopped from boarding trains, buses and crossing bridges by police and forced to march dozens of miles, over 24 hours, to eventually reach their various targets to shut down fossil fuel infrastructure. The multi-day event saw thousands of activists, across multiple simultaneous marches camp overnight in fields and train stations as they were watched closely by police.

Each march was flanked by squads of riot police, some armed with batons, pepper spray, pistols, horses, armored personnel carriers, and water cannons. Police walked alongside the marches to prevent participants from taking specific routes leading to fossil fuel infrastructure. Despite telling us it unnecessary to get permits for protest in Germany. Ende Gelände organizers had applied and received  permits for multiple marches and rallies. The police blocked activist movements despite being on permitted march routes.

Overcoming constant police obstacles marches, called “fingers”, self-organized to develop their own targets and routes and continued to make horizontal decisions on the fly when police interfered with predetermined action plans. For over 72 hours, multiple fingers shut down railroad tracks leading into a RWE coal fired power plant, while other fingers blocked access roads and occupied the RWE Garzweiler coal mine itself. Additionally, one self-organized group independently decided to lock down to a massive digger under the cover of night. It is estimated that RWE lost a million dollars a day due to actions of protesters.

While on the occupied rail tracks we spoke to Mona(sp?)Miller, an Ende Gelände spokesperson for the green finger, who told us it was not only about coal, but critiquing the capitalist system. When asked to elaborate Miller said,

“Capitalism is systematically based on the extraction of fossil fuels and exploitation of humans and nature. That’s why it needs continuous flow of fossil fuel energy to work and needs endless growth. And that’s not sustainable. We can’t go on always further, higher, bigger more. We need to change and transform our economic system so it puts people and nature in the middle and not the interests of corporations like RWE.” – Mona Miller, Ende Gelände spokesperson

As the Ende Gelände actions began on Friday June 21, 2019, youth from Fridays for the Future skipped school and marched in Aachen, Germany which drew between 35k-40k people. The next day, they joined the on-going Ende Gelände action and led the Green and Gold fingers along the perimeter of the mine.

Leo from Fridays for the Future told us that German youth have been on strike every Friday since December 2018. Leo said, about The European youth movement,

“Fridays for the future is an organization of young people started by Greta Thunberg from Sweden. We go not to school every Friday because we strike for a better climate politic. So we don’t go to school instead we go to Houses of Parliament. The problem is that the government doesn’t do anything that saves the climate and global warming continues.”  – Leo, student

At one point during Saturday’s march, groups of activists began pouring through police lines to storm the mine. Police pushed activists to the ground and hit them with batons, breaking bones and cameras, as people ran toward the edge to throw their bodies into mine.

We also spoke with Chris from Göllheim, Germany as we steered along the steep perimeter of the enormous coal mine. He told us that the people gathered there ranged in age from infants to adults and were there to stop the use of coal in Germany first, followed by the rest of Europe, and then the world in order to save the climate for everyone. When asked who was participating in the march he told us,

“There are different groups. Here you can hear screams of ‘Anti-Capitalista!’, some very left groups, but also people from the villages that want to save their homes.” – Chris, resident

Other than being one way to access the mine itself, this march was headed to a “festival” aimed at bringing attention to displaced villages. Multiple villages have already been destroyed by RWE as the expanding coal mine plans to consume still more of the surrounding communities.

On the same day as around one thousand people from Gold and Red finger were inside the Garzweiler mine, Silver traveled toward Hambach forest and blocked railroad tracks around the mine that is up to the border of the ancient growth forest. Rainbow finger, comprised of people who are differently-abled, formed their own unique strategies to participate in the disruption of coal infrastructure on Saturday as well. They blocked access roads to the mine, causing police to have to move more slowly through the area.

Credit: Ende Gelände flickr

Pink finger was held at a train station for over 12 hours on Friday and eventually pepper sprayed by police during the on-going action on Saturday.

In all, the Ende Gelände action saw multiple marches of dozens of miles winding their way through police blockades to reach fossil fuel infrastructure tied to the RWE mine. Through the days of action logistics teams resupplied marches and occupations with food and water. While thousands participated in the action, only three arrests were reported. One activist broke their arm while another’s finger was broken by a police baton. Three were arrested, but all those detained were let out of custody by Sunday evening. Despite an intense heatwave, obstacles, distance and police, activists still managed to accomplish their goal of disrupting fossil fuel infrastructure, stating clearly to coal companies in Germany and across Europe: Ende Gelände, “Here, no further”.

Taking Direct Action to Stop Climate Change – Ende Gelände & Hambach Forest in Germany from Unicorn Riot on Vimeo.

The following article was updated with the latest information and updates as we got them. Check out @UR_Ninja on Twitter for more real time updates and interviews.

Unicorn Riot is on scene of the Ende Gelände action camp. This is the fifth year climate activists have gathered to block German coal infrastructure around mines owned by energy giant RWE in the Rhineland region.

Ende Gelände translates to “Here, No Further”, referring to the need to stop using fossil fuels in order to stop runaway climate change. The German government has created a ‘Coal Commission‘ which has proposed to stop burning coal by 2038. Ende Gelände believes that is ridiculous and that halting coal use in twenty years will be too little, too late.

The Garzweiler surface mine near Jüchen, Germany. Screenshot from Google Earth

Multiple groups within the Ende Gelände camp, called “fingers”, are staging simultaneous civil disobedience actions over the next weekend to shut down coal infrastructure in the Rhineland region of Germany. Unicorn Riot will be live streaming the action throughout the weekend.

Early Friday morning, masses of protesters began to gather at the Ende Gelände camp to prepare to march towards the mine.

The marches from the Ende Gelände covered a fair amount of distance and stretched into the afternoon.
As the marchers approached the train they were going to take to their destination, police turned them away from using transit, forcing them to begin a trek of several kilometers on foot. Police in riot gear pushed their way through the march at one point, which increased the feeling of tension in the crowd. The green and red “finger” combined during the journey.


In the later afternoon and evening, marchers from the green “finger” collectively blocked a rail line being used to transport coal to an RWE mining facility.

As police looked on, a coal train exited backwards away from the coal facility after being unable to enter due to the blockade.

The group refused police requests to move off the railway, and as of 8:45 PM (2:45 PM US eastern time), the crowd is digging in to spend the night.

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