You are participating in Ende Gelaende. What are the legal consequences you might be facing?
First of all…
All systems are trying to counter any changes it is facing from the ouside, and we get to experience that as pressure on many different levels: starting with the pressure some relatives might put on you, up to the police and the court taking action against you. It makes sense to deal with possible repression beforehand, no matter what kind of action, whether state or civil law applies, to get to know the laws applying to the specific situation.
We see repression as a means to apply political pressure, a means we need to resist together. We want to offer all the support and knowledge we can give you, but we also depend on you working with us and want you to pay attention aswell. We cannot promise that all our answers to any kind of question will be “waterproof“, since repression isn’t always predictable and depends on the tactics and strategies of the repressing forces (e.g. police, state prosecution). But one thing is for sure – repression seeks to isolate and intimidate us, so we want to emphasize:
We act in solidarity! No one is left alone!
Repression is and is meant to be unpredictable; nonetheless, there are some experiences and ideas on what might be happening. However, there are no guarantees. In any case: we will establish support structures that will stand together in solidarity when faced with the consequences of repression – no one will be left alone! During the camp there you will always find people to approach with legal questions; there will also be workshops about legal issues. Nonetheless, it is important you read the Legal Aid booklet (3rd edition, 2017) *) beforehand. Knowing what you are dealing with, discussing your ideas for action in your affinity groups and well-informed behaviour in general is the base for getting in and out of the action well.
You could think about supporting the work of antirepression groups such as Rote Hilfe, AntiRRR, ABC, CAT and others with your donations or even by joining their work. Antirepression work is almost as important as the action itself. Supporting others in their way of dealing with repression is not only important, but also fulfilling – and maybe it is something you might be up to?
In case you are facing any legal consequences after the action, please get in touch with the legal team (firstname.lastname@example.org). Together we will find a way of dealing with repression, and we will use the repression to become stronger rather than weaker!
Contact the antirepression structures as soon as you receive any letters from the police or the state prosecution. We can use all allegations brought up against us politicially, make the absurdity of criminalizing climate activists public, and fight back against repression – if you want that too!
The action agreement for “Ende Gelaende” 2017, developed in advance, calls for a “publicly announced mass blockade, allowing multiple options for involvement”. Before entering into actions of any kind, check the corresponding sections in the legal aid booklet to find out which charges could be brought up against you. Although none of the courtcases for 2015 ended in a verdict of “guilty“, that could very well change in 2017. Please try to avoid any wrangling with the police. Although they might act violently it is better not to “push“ back. In the action agreememt we stated that we would not use violence against people!
If you are charged with any of these crimes, you are not necessarily going to be convicted. Oftentimes, charges can be dismissed or cases discontinued, e.g. because one did not attract the authorities’ attention before, or because the allegations end up being completely false. If you are however convicted of a crime, we think that it is highly unlikely to be put to jail for any behaviour that lies within the action agreement. Fines are much more likely.
If you are working either in the public service, as a doctor, a lawyer or with children (or are aspiring to work in any of these fields in the future), we advise you to read section 5.3 of the legal aid booklet and also consult the legal team in person.
RWE can use civil law to take action against activists. One element of civil law they choose to employ quite often is the so called declaration to cease and desist. As these can be quite costly we advise you to contact the “legal team for all“ beforehand. You can find more information on that topic in the legal aid booklet.
We are many, we stand together, and we can put up a good fight – politically, in the media and in the court room!
What factory security pople can (not) do
It is possible that at some point during the action you encounter RWE’s factory security. They can not demand you to show your ID or give them your data. But they can act within a so called “Public Right to Arrest“. It enables them to arrest you if they catch you “red-handed“, in the middle of committing a crime – they can detain you either until the police arrives, if your identity cannot be established or if you are at risk of flight. If necessary, they are allowed to use violence.
“Ende Gelaende’s“ stance on ID refusal
Ende Gelände“ generally considers the collective refusal to provide ID to the police in the context of the planned mass (!) action a reasonable strategy; and has had good experiences with it so far. All activists need to take responsibility to consider for themselves whether ID refusal makes sense in their specific situation. This short overview over Ende Gelaende’s position on the topic can’t replace considerate deliberation. Individual activists who are subject to certain risks can also consult the “Legal team for All“. If you decide not to disclose your identity to the police, you should neither bring ID documents, nor anything else that may reveal your identity, to the action. You can change your mind at any given time and declare your name orally.
At the camp, you will be able to discuss these questions and you are welcome to consult the “Legal Team for all“. Please also discuss in your affinity groups whether you want to disclose your identity or not ( Legal Aid booklet, chapter 3).
As police can do body searches, you need to leave all legal documents and other objects that could help to identify you in a safe place, with a person you trust, or at home (this includes your insurance card, train tickets and personalised bonus cards, credit/debit cards, your wallet, phone and other random objects marked with your name and/or address). Check all your stuff for anything revealing before going into action! There will be no organised storage of any personal belongings whatsoever at the camp.
- Successful collective ID refusal in 2015 and 2016 paved the way for a piece of political freedom which we now need to defend: we put up a resolute sign against the state’s repression, continuing our civil disobedience.
- The police has limited capacities to “book“ people; to take measures to establish their identities (German: ED-Behandlung). Detention centres can’t take in limitless numbers of people either. If hundreds of us refuse to be identified, it will be difficult to take everyone into custody and try to ascertain their identities in another way. Custody also has a time limit (cf. chapter 4.3.1 in the legal aid booklet).
- Many people refusing to ID themselves and also not cooperating in the proceedings to establish their identity can in turn protect individual activists. It makes it more difficult for the state authorities to register and prosecute the participants (no criminal charges).
- People remaining anonymous are of course also safe from any civil claims the corporation might bring forward – resulting in less “declarations to cease and desist“ and “preliminary injunctions“.
If police is threatening to put you in detention awaiting trial/remand custody:
- Police could threaten you with “detention awaiting trial“ to intimidate you if you do not say who you are. Only the court can rule to put you into detention awaiting trial, which is quite unlikely with an accusation like trespassing. The capacities for detention are limited aswell – they simply can’t detain most of the participants of a mass action that long. Detention awaiting trial in and of itself is not a penalty, but only meant to ensure that a trial can actually take place. If you have only been detained on grounds of your anonymity, stating your name will end your detention.
- Thus, one option would be to wait for the court ruling and the oral review of the remand. In case the court actually rules to put you in detention awaiting trial, you can still state your name to the court after the decision has been made, or at any point in time in the detention centre. Depending on the time, you could be released immediately, within a few hours, or the next morning.
- But: detention awaiting trial can only last as long as there is a reason to detain you (risk of flight, danger of collusion). In some cases, this can result in longer detention times for people without a place of residence (in Germany), despite stating their name. Contact the “Legal team for All“ if you are unsure about your situation.
- “Classic“ civil disobedience entails taking responsibility for one’s own actions. Some people might feel uncomfortable “hiding“ when performing a legitimate action.
- Police can keep people in custody for twelve hours in order to establish their identity. During this time, people are still under some mental pressure, the action isn’t over yet. The police can also try to use force to find out who you are (e.g. grabbing you tightly while trying to take your fingerprints or photos).
- Refusing to reveal ones identity is an act of misdemeanour, possibly charged with a fine (usually 70€, max. 1.000€) if your identity is exposed despite all efforts to hide it. But of course antirepression structures will also be at your side in any such case – no one is left alone.
“Some information for groups at risk“:
- ID refusal is a crime in the case of people who are not legal citizens of an EU country (§ 95 Aufenthaltsgesetz/ Residence Act). Being convicted of a crime can have negative consequences for any future attempts to obtain a visa for Germany. It will also be considered when deciding about a possible expulsion (cf. legal aid booklet chapter 5).
- Applying for a visa requires taking fingerprints. Thus, if you needed a visa to enter the country, identifying you after an action despite your ID refusal could become much easier (if said measures are taken).
- If you were subjected to an ED treatment/booking (having your photos/fingerprints taken) in the context of another action before, and if they were able to identify you (either because you stated your name voluntarily or because of the ED treatment), it is very likely that you will be identified again.
If you have signed a declaration to cease and desist, you can be asked to pay the so called contract penalty of several 1000€ (stated in the document) once you breached the contract the declaration constitutes. In this case, it is better to avoid being identified when walking the premises of RWE. If you have any questions and would like to discuss them with the “Legal team for all“, please bring a copy of your declaration to cease and desist.
Warning: If you refused to reveal your identity in an anti-coal action/ in the same region once, it makes sense to stick to that strategy. Otherwise you could be facing repression for former actions. The legal aid booklet explains a number of legal aspects in more detail. We advice you to really become familiar with the booklet and discuss it in your affinity group before the action. This text you ar reading only provides an overview that can’t replace a specific assessment for individual legal situations.
If you do not have a German passport or your place of residence is outside of Germany
Different regulations, risks and options apply to different groups of people. Please read section 6 in the legal aid booklet.
Any questions left?
Feel free to contact us at email@example.com – please be patient with us; we may need some time to give you a competent answer. The legal team will be present at the camp. You can come see us at our tent and talk to us or attend one of our info events if you have any questions.
With more general legal questions concerning (climate) activism, you can contact for example the Rote Hilfe (a legal aid group active throughout Germany) or AntiRRR (Antirepression Group rhenish lignite mining area).
*) About the third edition of this year’s legal aid booklet:
This third edition entails two important additions. Using your action trainings and info events to call attention on these changes would be highly appreciated!
You can find the changes in the section about being summoned by police (p.25) and about the probability of contract penalties when doing blockades in public spaces (p. 32). People affected by declarations to cease and desist (DCD) should definitely consult the legal team before entering into action and/or join the workshop about DCDs at the camp. Please spread the word!
Another point has been added: Sitting blockades on public streets (2.2.5).