Police violence, and particularly psychological violence, has at all times been a part of the struggle against coal within the Rhineland.
For many years, RWE relied on direct and fewer visible violence by police and security forces to repress resistance, embedded in a range of counterinsurgency strategies.
From beatings to intimidation, rape threats and use of pressure points, outright lies and misinformation – the corporate has at all times been in a position to count on the support of state forces – police and politicians.
For a very long time, the top of the Rhinish police force was himself a paid member of RWE’s advisory board, and politicians of all levels have had lucrative side jobs at the corporate.
Their PR and CSR work, including the character restoration work, and the support by regional media led to the image pretty much as good neighbour and ‘responsible corporate citizen’ amongst large parts of the general public.
Police have long collaborated with RWE on the bottom, retweeting RWE press messages, using RWE vehicles to move protesters, and outsourcing probably the most difficult tunnel eviction work to RWE’s private fire brigades.
Not only is the corporate deeply embedded within the German political landscape, but it surely has managed to construct dependencies and revolving door-relationships through payments to politicians. 1 / 4 of its shares are owned by towns and cities within the Rhineland, making them depending on RWE’s financial success.
Yet, RWE’s image has long been crumbling, due to the work of campaigners and land defenders who’ve put their bodies in the way in which and attacked the corporate in every way they will.
Lessons learnt: critical solidarity and meaningful alliances
What’s inspiring and amazing concerning the Lützerath resistance isn’t whether Greta Thunberg has come to offer a speech, join the sitting blockade, or is carried away by police.
Or indeed whether it’s 35,000 or 50,000 individuals who come to march together with the demonstration called for by a coalition of groups, regardless that that may be something unimaginable within the UK context.
What’s far more amazing is that for years and years, people have been fighting back, risking their very own lives, constructing community, spending time in prison, in tree houses, and underground, to stop RWE.
Living the longer term they wish to see, and coming together despite the attempts by police, media, and politicians to divide and conquer, framing them as eco-terrorists and eco-extremists, and asking communities to distance themselves from the more radical ‘elements’ of the resistance. Unsuccessfully.
The Lützerath resistance may be very diverse – we see eco-anarchists and liberal environmentalists, Fridays-for-Future kids and church groups.
There isn’t a such thing as ‘the’ climate movement. And while people will vastly differ of their political opinions and ideologies, and despite political pressure, conflict, and tensions, there was no “distancing” from actions and types of protest over the past week, as so often occurs.
Unlike in earlier anti-coal protests in Germany, there was no condemnation, no appeals for ‘nonviolence’ or ‘peaceful protest’. People have embraced a diversity of tactics, not letting the state and RWE divide and rule.
Don’t trust the Greens
A second, reasonably unsurprising lesson for lots of us, but all too painful for the mainstream environmental movement, is: “whatever happens, don’t trust the German Green Party”.
The political deal that allowed for the eviction of Lützerath in return for the “saving” of 5 other villages and the expediting of the German coal phaseout from 2038 to 2030, was negotiated and agreed with RWE under a Green coalition government.
Not only was Lützerath sacrificed under the deal, but by increasing the quantity of coal extracted annually, the advanced phaseout led to the identical amount of coal burnt, and carbon emitted, just in a shorter time period.
The German government won’t ever take the motion essential to stop climate catastrophe, it’s as much as us.
Hit them where it hurts
As stricter policing laws are being introduced within the UK and elsewhere, we want to rethink how we act and protest – not playing by their rules.
In and around Lützerath, now we have seen sitting blockades, digger occupations, tree-sits, and other people gluing on to structures and treehouses. But now we have also seen non-violent sabotage, night actions, burning infrastructures, and other unaccountable actions.
Harsh recent policing and assembly laws in Germany didn’t deter actions but made them more creative, constructing on a protracted history of combative motion.
There’s so much to learn from them, and from our own past experiences with direct motion within the UK, from the road protests to anti-GMO struggles. And centuries of combative resistance by indigenous and land-based communities the world over!
Reasonably than focussing on spectacle and media attention, what has worked is shutting down machinery, costing corporations money, making it tougher to operate on daily basis.
Identical to the police won’t ever actually follow the law when policing protest – and similar to we’ll never actually get police accountability, why should we?
Don’t fall for his or her narratives
All too often we engage with the narratives of the state, consistently answering the identical questions around energy security, violence, and alternatives, reasonably than asserting our own stories and narratives.
We find yourself discussing carbon emissions, reasonably than power and liberation. We hearken to skilled activists, reasonably than community.
It’s not a coincidence that we’re currently seeing a crackdown on alternative media and anarchist publishing collectives – from the assault on 325.nostate to the raiding of the German Radio Dreyeckland just two days ago. Our stories are powerful.
Let’s avoid self-policing and censorship, obsession with motion consensus and motion agreements, and rejoice autonomy and radical solidarity, mutual aid, and support.
This doesn’t mean watering down our politics, after all, or pretend that is ‘beyond politics’, but bring together anti-coal, anti-police, anti-border, anti-colonial and anti-state struggles.
And let’s fight back against the categorisation as activists, divided along identities, and push for collective total liberation.
For abolition and liberatory politics
Black radical thinkers have long brought together resistance against prisons, police, and pollution, and our friends within the US have been fighting toxic prisons for years.
Police brutality in and around Lützerath should function a reminder that policing is integral to extractivism and the ecological harm it causes, and central to enforcing ecocide.
We’d like a culture of resistance, not an activist culture, with people living, loving, respiratory resistance, reasonably than neatly fitting into activist categories.
Be disruptive and joyous: “If I can not dance to it, it is not my revolution”, Emma Goldman said way back. “Love, live, resist”, because the banner says.
The struggle continues
The eviction of Lützerath is over, in keeping with police, however the fight isn’t. It is a fight against coal, against police and fossil capital, against false green solutions, and for a unique life.
The previous few days have seen a diversity of actions against RWE, and solidarity actions the world over, involving the burning of Amazon vehicles in solidarity with imprisoned land defenders, blockades of German embassies and more.
People have shown that they’ll not let RWE get away with ecocide – blocking coal train tracks, excavators, and infrastructures, occupying offices and roads, and sabotaging machinery.
As police proceed to guard fossil capital, enforcing ecological destruction, people proceed fighting. For a unique world.
Dr Andrea Brock is a lecturer in diplomacy on the Centre for Global Political Economy, University of Sussex, UK.