Reportage : The Free Republic of Welzow Süd Lausitz, Germany - 2016

The working week was almost over on a Friday evening (May 13th, 2016), when some 60 activists of the environmental alliance "Ende Gelände" decided to live in a lignite excavator. The mood was cheerful. The protestors danced and laughed, while some lay exhausted on the conveyor belts of the big excavator, climbed on to the loading crane, and hung a political banner on it. They held their plenary on the roof of the gigantic machine. They stayed to block the operation of the coal power plant "Schwarze Pumpe" of Vattenfall in the Lausitz. A few hours prior, the generally young protestors, wearing white protective suits, had entered the lignite strip mines in eastern Germany. The isolated policemen and security guards were helpless and could only watch. Most people continued to walk toward the railroads to cut off the supply of the coal-fired power station. The rest of the protesters stayed and occupied the excavator. The anti-coal movement has been gaining power in Germany, and the similarities and organizational parallels with the antinuclear energy movement are strong-they have already succeeded in bringing about a nuclear phase-out.
During the Pentecost weekend of 2015, some 3,500 people were involved in the protests. On Saturday evening, the capacity of the Vattenfall power plant had to be reduced to 20 percent. An engineer of Vattenfall, who entered the excavator in the evening, had to laugh: where on normal days, thousands of tons of coal were run on the conveyor belt, there were protestors lying on their sleeping bags. The activists brought all their food and water as there was no supply. They came to stay for a few nights. In the evening, they proclaimed "Free Republic Welzow-Süd" on the excavator, making the industrial infrastructure a symbol of its resistance to the lignite industry.
On Friday, May 13th, 2016, some 1,600 protesters of the environmental alliance "Ende Gelände" marched toward the lignite strip mines in Welzow-Süd in eastern Germany to occupy and blockade two excavators to prevent the mine from working. They aimed to stop the polluting electronic energy arising from coal mining.
A samba music group played in the front of the excavator and the protesters danced.
With their protests, the protesters sent clear signals that weekend. The media discussed the parallels that existed with the famous German anti-nuclear movement.
The protestors travelled long distances and came from all over Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Great Britain, France, and even from Australia. A major group came from Sweden, the home country of the energy company Vattenfall.
In the beginning of 2016, the Swedish energy company Vattenfall announced that they would sell their lignite mining sector in Lausitz to a new investor. The environmental organization Greenpeace offered to renature the open pit area for a compensation of several million euros. Vattenfall did not agree.
A squatter looked at her smartphone while resting. News is sparse as there is bad mobile network coverage in the pit.
Security guards came to check for damage caused by the protesters.
They came to stay and brought their sleeping bags with them. A group of squatters spent time playing cards inside the excavator.
An activist massaged his girlfriend on the conveyor belt during sunset.
There is no other country extracting more brown coal than Germany, but this extraction is bound to end soon. The protesters want the country to stop extraction earlier. The shutdown of the mine will be a disaster for the employees.
With respect to lignite-based electricity generation, the CO2 emission per kilowatt-hour of electricity is about three times higher than the average emission of other energy sources.
The activists made themselves comfortable on the same spot where, on other days, thousands of tons of coal pass by.
Lignite-based electricity is responsible for about 18 percent of Germany's CO2 emission.
The squatters slept for two nights on the excavator.
A squatter washed the coal dust off his face on the way back to the camp. Every exposed part of the body had been covered by an oil film in those few days. There were still about 20 activists waiting on the excavator.

This is the end, my friend ...

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