Ende Gelände 2016

Guest blog by Sama
 
 
Picture from Break Free Flickr set - more amazing pictures here
 
During the Paris climate negotiations last December, I went home feeling part of a growing movement that was energized and dedicated to going a step further in our acts of civil disobedience. With no legal binding commitments coming out of the COP21 but with climate related disasters on the rise, it has become clearer than ever that it is up to us to collectively organise in our diversity to break free from a dysfunctional system that is the driver of injustice and climate change, in order to build alternatives. 
 
The Break Free initiative came up and there was no way that I was going to miss out on this. The idea was that during the month of May 2016, international mass actions would take place around big areas of fossil fuel extraction. The one I wanted to be part of was Ende Gelände, which had the plan to hit the coal mining industry taking place in the east of Germany. Vattenfall is the current company owning this industry but they are trying to sell it off, passing the burden of mining the dirty lignite coal onto someone else. 
 
When I entered the climate camp where the mass action was going to emanate from, my ears started buzzing from all the different languages being spoken around me. The diversity in cultures and people who had come to be part of Ende Gelände brought together a beautiful mix of skills and strategies. These involved lock-on technics, inflatable cobble stone blockers, revolutionary songs, clowning and gender minority human blocks. It was so overwhelmingly exciting that I did not know what I wanted to get involved in, trying to balance out what would be the most strategic as well as what I was most eager to do, but also, what I’d dare to do. A dichotomy between what was spinning in my head, my heart and my hands was going on and it was hard to connect them together. 
 
Some self-imposed time alone helped me make the decision to join the bike ‘finger’-  a 200-person strong group using the wheels to cover further distances than by foot, reaching key areas of the railway tracks that supply the coal to the power plant and blocking it. This finger felt the right place to be as a large group of us had just cycled from London to the camp together. The UK based organization Time to Cycle co-organised with other European groups to build the two-week Cycle Ende Gelände project. Departing from different areas on the continent and colliding on the way, we discovered how other social groups were attempting to live together off the beaten track, putting the care of the community and the land at the center of their principles. Eco-villages, church halls, squats, permaculture gardens amongst others, welcomed us into their spaces at each stop of our journey, constantly positively surprising me. 
 
Throughout the ride we built ourselves a communal space where we shared our skills, stories, and ideas.  This space allowed so many elements to sprout; forming beautiful affinities between people, bringing us closer to our physical bodies and to the environment surrounding us day-in and day-out, as well as an internal transformation. By giving time for such elements to develop, I reached the climate camp feeling surrounded by people I truly trusted, which gave me the courage to step out of my comfort zone and put my body in the line of the agents of climate change.
 
On the Friday, some fingers went on to block a railway track, while others went into the mine and onto the diggers, making a large part of the industry to come to a stand still. The next morning in was our turn to play our role and in our white bowler suits - clothing that has come to represent the Ende Gelände action - we pedaled towards some other tracks. The near complete lack of police presence was ghostly surprising but allowed us to take on Plan A (a rarity to not reach plan B, C or D) in perfection. We occupied the railway tracks and stopped more of the power plant to be supplied by coal. Although we were a large group of people in the finger, being part of a six-person affinity group allowed us to have our own autonomy within the wider action. We were like a small chapter to the wider story. 
 
As the day went on, I got more and more impressed by the pieces producing this incredibly successful action. The choreography of the fingers and the affinity groups were sewn together by mobile kitchens, legal teams, samba bands, medics, filmmakers, support groups, and more, forming a caring patchwork of disobedience. The measurable successes from the weekend were impressive. We shut down the mine, blocked the loading station and all the lines transporting coal out and forced Vattenfall to take its lignite power station Schwarze Pumpe almost completely off the grid. But I believe there to be many more outcomes that cannot be put into numbers or added to a graph. Without a shed of a doubt, I know that I was exactly where I should have been at that time. Surrounded by 4000, we were ensuring that fossil fuels stayed in the ground in order to push humanity’s actions a bit higher up on the spectrum of global justice. 
 
It was an ephemeral community camp and a three-day action, but enough to have energized me to keep on implementing the learnt techniques and developing my courage to keep on going with this growing tribe of caring disobedients.