On the lawn, right next to the half-destroyed Seehausen train station, the activists have built a stage from a kind of trestle table. In front of it are wildly thrown chairs, the names of the actors written on A4 paper with a thick felt-tip pen. It says “Zoltán Schäfer, injured/witness”, or “Mobile advice for victims of right-wing violence”. As pleasant as this press conference may seem for now – it’s about bad things.
Zoltán Schäfer, spokesman for the Altmark Green Youth, Saxony-Anhalt, reports how he and some of his fellow campaigners were attacked last Friday. A man in Ku Klux Klan garb shot her with a banned paintball gun, another filmed the whole thing, and moments later the video was online. “We are in a spiral of violence here,” says Schäfer. “The intensity of the attacks is increasing. That deters us.”
The old brick train station in the city of 5000 inhabitants is a base of the protests against the extension of Autobahn 14, which should connect Wismar and Schwerin via Magdeburg with Halle, Leipzig and Dresden. The other base is located a few kilometers further in the Losserwald. Since the activists occupied a forest with a few treehouses there in April, the attacks have increased: death threats were allegedly made on the fringes of demonstrations, on May 17 a bench burned in front of the train station and the fire spread to the building. A few days later, strangers vandalized the building’s basement and, according to police, left behind two homemade explosives that fortunately did not explode.
“It was pure coincidence that no one was really hurt,” says Martin Burgdorf of the mobile advice center against right-wing extremism, who also came to Seehausen. So far, however, he does not assume that there is a real network behind the attacks. There were also organizational structures of right-wing extremists in the region, for example so-called comrades. But in the protests against the A14, he sees the problem that “the subject is quite emotional”.
Reiner Haseloff sees ‘attack on rule of law’
That’s cautious to say the least. The mood around Seehausen is so heated that even Prime Minister Reiner Haseloff (CDU) took the floor on Tuesday: “Seehausen’s attack on a group of young people is an attack on the rule of law.” The mayor of the association, Rüdiger Kloth of the Free Voters, has made a similar statement. The police also announced on Tuesday that they had set up their own investigation team into the violence.
Critics of the police have for some time demanded that the officers work harder to investigate the attacks. After the paintball attack last Friday, a police helicopter went in search of the perpetrator. The statements made by some politicians about the activists are also seen as problematic. The CDU member of the state parliament, Chris Schulenburg, filmed himself at the end of April during a visit to the Losserwoud. There he called the squatters “rare specimens” and “rare tree-dwellers” and continued: “I had to address them in English. These are professional protesters from all over the world who are hindering our development here in the Altmark. Unbelievable.”
Patrick Puhlmann, district administrator of the SPD in the Stendal district, likes to talk about many aspects of the area. About the new coworking spaces, for example. Or about the commuters between Berlin and Stendal, which are there thanks to the ICE stop here. About the mobility transition. Instead, “we are now debating the past on the A14 for the hundredth time”. Of course you can protest against that, he says. “But I consider tree occupation in a private forest to be the wrong approach.”
In fact, the planning for the A14 has been around for decades. The district is just unlucky that the section is not there yet, says Puhlmann. “Some in the neighborhood have been waiting for the motorway for twenty years.” But that’s just one reason for the charged mood. That the activists did not have to adhere to the curfew in the middle of the corona pandemic is another. The highest forest fire level, which was in force last week, is added. Many people are involved in the voluntary fire brigade, says Puhlmann, they are afraid that a fire will break out in the forest. “The subject is also very emotional.” He sees the danger “that the conflict will escalate further”. The Magdeburg Administrative Court has just halted a planned evacuation of the camp.
“They just want to put a lot of concrete in the forest,” says an activist
In the Losserbos there is not a trace of annoyance around it, the forest is quiet, birds are chirping and a woodpecker is pounding in between. The activists in the camp do not reveal names, some do not address you with “Sie” or “Du”, but with “Hello man”. A man in his thirties says that some fellow activists come from all over the world for just a few days. Few of them have been in the woods like him since April. He does not want to talk further about the attacks, he is annoyed that people suddenly became interested in the protest. “It would be much better if we talked about what needs to be done here: they just want to pour a lot of concrete into the forest.”
After the administrative judge’s ruling, he prepared to stay longer – even if the conflict got worse. “In my first two weeks it only rained here. It really rained,” he says. “We’re definitely not there for fun.”