Saturday, July 21, 2007

Victory for Dutch & Belgian EarthFirst!

For two years GroenFront! - Dutch & Belgian EarthFirst! - have been fighting with the local community in Schinveld, in the southeast of the country, to preserve a forest that would be destroyed for the sake of the NATO airforce base across the German border. A direct action camp was evicted in January, and 15 acres were destroyed, but 35 acres saved. GroenFront! was preparing to reoccupy the woods awating the final outcome of a legal battle between the local council and national government, but now to great surprise, the protestors have been vindicated and the forests are definitely saved from NATO's bloody claws. On July 18th the Dutch highest administrative court ruled that the logging of Schiveld forest is illegal. This means the ministry of defence cannot continue the logging of the forest as requested by NATO, it also means the logging of the first six hectares in January 2006 was illegal. The forest would need to be destroyed to allow AWACS radar planes to lift off with more fuel in order to fly directly to Afghanistan and Iraq.


For almost 30 years local protestors in Schinveld have fought against NATO, first to stop the reopening of the base, then to reduce the nuisance caused by the outdated AWACS radar planes, and, since the eviction of the action camp and the logging in 2006, radicalised by GroenFront!'s forest camp, to close down the base.

When NATO wanted 20 hectares of the forest cut and it looked as if the local council would be overruled by the ministries of defence (owner of the forest) and infrastructure, they contacted GroenFront! and started a campaign where Schinveld was highlighted in the New York Times.


GroenFront! and the local community protest group Stop Awacs started a series of smaller actions. After thethe spring of 2005, the number of actions increased when the minister of infrastructure gave out a logging permit on August 3rd 2005, after a Nimby-legislation procedure (not in my back yard).

The local council and Stop Awacs tried to stop the logging until the final ruling (the one that came today) would have been made, but the court decided against that on the 2nd of December 2005. On Sunday December 4th 2005, GroenFront! occupied the forest and started an intensive international campaign.


The camp was evicted on January 9th 2006, the afternoon before about 2000 locals walked their demo in support of the activist into the forest, in spite of a restriction order, and cheered at the international group of more than 100 activist occupying the trees at that moment. Before the police could start evicting the trees, they had to remove several hundred locals who stayed in the woods after the demonstration, trying to avoid police blockades and committing other forms of civil disobedience as the mayor used emergency legislation against his own people.

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