Saxony-Anhalt - Against any motorway

Against every highway

The need to expand the A14 is totally obvious here, between Colbitz and Tangerhütte

Photo: Stephan Schulz / dpa

Directions to the warehouse are only given by coordinates. 30 activists: inside are sitting on the planned route of the A14, which is to lead through the forest here in a few years. The protest against this building does not make use of classic tree houses, rather pallet-like platforms are attached to pine trunks at a height of about five meters, the roof structures above are made of tarpaulin. AfD election posters serve as the walls of a self-made forest toilet.

Critics of the protest, which has been active for a few weeks, like to note that the local Losser Forest was artificially created and is a monoculture. In contrast to the Hambach Forest, which has been thriving for a few thousand years, the forest near Seehausen in the Altmark has a short history. It doesn't matter to the activists. “In spite of everything, the monoculture is better than the car culture,” it says on the Internet. Under the motto “Moni stays!” They are against clearing and building the A14.

There was a long controversy in Saxony-Anhalt about the motorway that is supposed to lead from Magdeburg via Wittenberge to Schwerin. In the summer of 2019, the state reached an agreement with the Federation for the Environment and Nature Conservation, and both sides made concessions. The first sections have now been completed, but not everyone has come to terms with the major project. Most recently, the “Friends of Nature Saxony-Anhalt” sued the section between Osterburg and Vielbaum.

Fire and broken glass

The occupiers in the Losser Forest emphasize that they are looking for a dialogue - with the residents as well as with the supporters of the autobahn. For this purpose, the disused train station in Seehausen, a few kilometers away, was rented, which is now privately owned. It serves the activists as a base camp and as an information point for those interested. Instead of dialogue, there was violence: in the few weeks that the base camp exists, it has been the target of attacks several times. On the night of May 17, a couch burned in front of the building and window panes were broken. The fire brigade was able to contain the fire before it could spread to a wooden false roof.

A week later, alleged opponents: inside the activists: inside: They broke into the station building, devastated the interior and, according to a police spokeswoman, set fire to a "firecracker". The forest occupiers: inside speak of an "explosive device", a kind of self-made pipe bomb. Shortly after the crime, the police were able to arrest a group of people who were true witnesses, the investigation is still ongoing.

The fact that alleged supporters of the A14 are so vehemently against the protests is also due to the local press, complains the alliance “No A14!”: The daily newspaper People's Voice In general, let those people and local politicians who are in favor of the building have their say and avoid counter-arguments and voices from autobahn critics in general. The region's second daily newspaper, the Altmark Newspaper, be more balanced and also let activists have their say. The background noise for the dispute is provided by the hot phase of the election campaign in Saxony-Anhalt before the state elections this Sunday.

A number of local politicians and mayors outbid each other with demands to clear the forest and dissolve the protest. The mayor of the community of Seehausen, Rüdiger Kloth, had shown early on that he did not understand the activists. Kloth left the CDU in 2019, initially founded the “Pro Altmark” alliance before joining the Free Voters in early 2020. “Left ideologues” had captured the forest, he said People's Voice End of April. Nobody from the population living here understands these protests. The activists, on the other hand, speak of broad support from the surrounding area.

Chris Schulenburg, CDU district chairman and domestic policy spokesman for the CDU parliamentary group in Magdeburg, is also involved in the matter. The 40-year-old police officer was there early, then blasphemed on the Internet about “professional demonstrators” and spoke of “rare specimens”. The undertone of a corresponding video is reminiscent of the style of the AfD, and not just that: Schulenburg gave a speech in the state parliament around February 2020 in which he refused to declare May 8th as the day of liberation from National Socialism a public holiday: “For many People in East and Central Germany did not find peace, freedom, confidence and joy on that day. "One should think of" Flight and displacement ", the" loss of home and life ", and further:" On the one hand, May 8, 1945 is seen as the day of liberation. From the other side of society it is seen as the day of a new dictatorship. ”The CDU man received a lot of encouragement from the AfD and the neo-Nazi scene. Such approaches are what make the upcoming election day so delicate; AfD and Union are on par in surveys, who will govern with whom and who can at all is open.

Around the Losser Forest, it does not stop with the agitation against the forest occupation from the ranks of the CDU and AfD. The activists face insults and anonymous threats that the trees on which the platforms have been pitched will be felled.

Ambivalent greens

On the other hand, the SPD district administrator of the Stendal district, Patrick Puhlmann, acts diplomatically: During a visit on site, he pointed out on the one hand that one had to adhere to the resolutions and thus the further construction. On the other hand, he expressed a great deal of understanding for the occupiers' concerns: he could understand their wish for a traffic turnaround.

The Greens, on the other hand, for whom surveys predict that their state election results will almost double to around ten percent, give an ambivalent picture. With Claudia Dalbert, the party provides the country's environment minister, but local concerns seem to be of little value to them. For weeks she has been exposed to fierce criticism from citizens' groups and local associations for downplaying and playing down the dangers of a poisonous sludge pit near Brüchau in the Altmark district of Salzwedel.

Those who oppose the expansion of the motorway receive support and solidarity from local representatives. Cathleen Hoffmann, chairwoman of the Altmark Green District Association, pointed out in mid-May that the mélange of "right-wing extremists (...) and conservative city councilors, politicians and mayors" had created a climate that contributed to the escalation. Even the green city councilor of the Hanseatic city of Osterburg, David Elsholz, and Susanne Bohlander, city councilor of the Hanseatic city of Seehausen, oppose the ignition and ask whether some colleagues have "seen too many western films".

Meanwhile, the opponents of the protest camp are working in the background to clear it. So far, the occupation has only been illegal, not criminal in nature. The occupiers fear that their camp could quickly be razed to the ground with a corresponding government constellation in the country.

Marc Fischer works as a freelance journalist in Saxony-Anhalt, including for MDR