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What to expect in a forest occupation?

Danni Blog Part 3:

So far, this blog has tried to more or less objectively describe the place and its logistics. But how your experience is, what you spend your days doing, how it feels like, what you learn – all of these questions are deeply personal and depend on what you are looking for, whether you go alone or with friends and (I think most importantly), who you meet there. This section will be a bigger reflection of what I – the anonymous activist writing up this text – think is relevant to know and things that I would have liked to know before coming.

  • Choose a forest name. Forest names are anonymous names for people to use instead of your real name. This is useful against repression and an act of solidarity towards people who do not want to disclose their identity. Many people use foods (tempeh, tofu, carrot) or things related to the forest. It’s nice, if the name is easy to pronounce for german- and english-speakers.
  • x Don’t worry too much about logistics. Even if you come just with your clothes on, you’ll probably be able to find a sleeping bag and a mat, food and extra clothing if you get cold. However, there is a packing list that you can check beforehand.
  • The so-called ‘Out of action’ structures are open for you! If you need a break or emotional support, do not feel bad to make use of them, no matter what the reason is!
  • the onion principle helps against the cold: More layers = more better. Two (or three) sleeping bags also help, if your sleeping bag isn’t meant for the cold.
  • There is always a risk, that the police stops you somewhere on your way, so be aware where you keep identifying documents or incriminating stuff (like knives). However, so far it has always been fairly easy to reach the Danni itself. On arrival you can be quite relaxed! Be sure to check the Danni twitter for updates on this.
  • There is very useful and extensive legal information (which you can also find in the place itself). If you want to learn more already, check out this link: https://waldstattasphalt.blackblogs.org/en/legal-manual-for-direct-action-in-hessen/

Why does it matter?

The Danni is one of the most important climate justice struggles in Germany right now. Depending on your viewpoint, it’s a space where activists are radicalized and anarchist ideas are being put into practice. You can chill next to the fire everyday or you can burn out from all the responsibilities you are taking. It really is what you make of it.

It represents a stuggle for biodiversity, for the protection of drinking water, for a just traffic transition, with less cars on less roads. For other people, it represents a struggle to live in an anti-capitalist way, a struggle to protect forests, to fight against habitat fragmentation. For some, it’s protecting the salamanders that crawl there, for others it’s living in open rebellion against the state itself.

I think the struggle to protect the Danni from eviction and ultimately, from destruction is a fight for all of these things and more. It matters, because it’s a space where people can learn how to live with each other while trying to constantly remove hierarchies, while learning from and with each other. I believe, that a lot of leftist struggles benefit from it or will benefit in the future. The forest itself matters, with its mushrooms and moss and salamanders and wild pigs, but it also builds better connected movements, with people who are gaining more and more experience, get to know each other better. On a bigger scale it’s also an example of working together with different groups and collectives, from Extinction Rebellion to Ende Gelände to Campact! to Fridays for Future. It is both prefiguring a better world in the Danni itself, but also working to create this world elsewhere.

What do I think about it?

I think this forest is a place of contradictions. It’s a place full of people dressed in black, with their face covered – who hug trees and climb to dwindling heights to protect them. A place that is so full of hope and energy and great ideas – but also full of sadness, of constant fear and paranoia for repression. A place full of people who genuinely care about the world, a place that attracts hundreds of people who have never done something like this before – only to ask those people to sit in barricades that revolve around the idea that the police will refrain from harming those same people. A place that tries to fight against hierarchies, yet seems to establish differences between those in- and outside the forest. It tries to fight against an oppressive society, yet it is an incredibly white space.

With Covid cases increasing everywhere, it is just a matter of time until one of the police or one of the activists there contracts it. It’s very difficult to live hygienic in the forest, so this is certainly a cause for concern. In my opinion, the only solution to this would be the delay of the eviction process. Most people are there to protect things that are under immediate threat of being destroyed. I strongly believe that without this aggression from the political process/ the county government/ the police, many people would leave the forest and it would be much easier for the remaining ones to stay save.

It can also be a scary place. Just the fact that for many forms of resistance that are used in the forest, you rely on the fact that police is competent and caring enough to not harm you is quite a harsh reality. Stories of right – wing nutcases who go in the forest by night and cut ropes are a bit jarring, too.

But there is so much growth there, too. People pushing their boundaries, learning physical skills, learning how to live together in this completely different way. It’s a way of taking collective action. For and with each other. For something that is clearly right. According to a paper by the Journal Nature, the planet has already lost almost half of its trees since the beginning of human civilization – I don’t think it’s crazy to say that it must end there.

In and around the forest, there is space for a huge variety of people and all kinds of activities are needed to keep the place running and beautiful. People of all sorts are needed to constantly challenge and improve the place. For me, it was a journey into things I never realized were possible. Living so easy despite the hardship. Living according to one’s values. Feeling a strong connection to a common struggle. It is an experience that is empowering and shows what is possible when people are working together.  If you can – try it sometime – in the Danni or in a forest occupation elsewhere.

Read more about the context and some practical information in the Danni Blog part 1
and about “what is the Danni?” in the Danni Blog part 2