Plane Stupid UK meets Plane Stupid Germany

It was always going to be a match made in heaven as on the weekend activists from Plane Stupid met for the first time with campaigners from Plane Stupid Germany at the first ever International Airport Residents Conference held in Munich.

The stories were similar. Munich Airport wants a third runway but are being met with fierce resistance. Like Sipson in West London, Attaching, the location of the conference just outside Munich, is facing the demolition of people's homes and community to make way for another runway.

250 people who attended the conference, mostly locals, heard stories about the impacts of aviation on people's everyday lives. The stories from all over Europe were different, but each time there were many similarities. The noise impacts are always horrific, air pollution rates are out of control and the most worrying reality of all this planned airport expansion is that we're surely left with no chance of preventing the worst affects of climate change.

However, resistance is rife. From Nantes to London, Munich, Berlin, Leipzig, Austria, Brussels and in Frankfurt where over 1500 people are occupying the airports terminal every Monday, ordinary people are fighting back all over Europe.

The campaign in Munich in particular has a great chance of success and John Stewart's (Chair of Airport Watch & HACAN) talk at the conference on 'how the Heathrow campaign was won' offered much inspiration.

Last year, in an almost copycat protest to when Plane Stupid members famously got on top of the roof of Parliament, activists from Plane Stupid Germany organised a banner drop at their Town Hall. And as we have in Sipson, activists have now built great relationships with the community around the airport who are faced with losing there homes. At a recent region wide referendum, the votes counted showed that most people now oppose a third runway at Munich, a result that the Plane Stupid Germany activists can take much responsibility for.

The second day of the conference was a campaigning session where we made a presentation on the history, justification and previous examples of direct action taken by ourselves. The German activists and residents were left inspired, and although the majority of them are a lot older than we are – to our amusement we must add, if the government don't scrap the third runway plans soon - I wouldn't be surprised if we see a member of Plane Stupid Germany on the newspaper front pages super-glued to a politician in the near future.  

Plane Stupid Germany launch with direct action


On Wednesday 30th June, 15 activists launched Plane Stupid Germany in style as they dropped banners from the town hall of Munich in an act of peaceful civil disobedience. The action appealed to the state capital to stop the planned Munich third runway by a referendum.

The Munich airport is the biggest single threat to the climate in Bavaria. One of the activists involved said:

"In deep concern of what we have built in our lives and in deep concern of the world we will leave to future generations, we have decided to follow the way of civil disobedience. Its not acceptable that the protection of property, health and climate-protection written in the Bavarian constitution, is not valid in Bavaria and it's capital when it comes to a third runway."

Recently leaked news showed that the airport has majorly influenced the referendum with one million euros.

5 days exchange between London and Bavaria

“The Saturday Congress, run by JBN (Young Bavarian Friends of the Earth) was sensational. It filled all who attended it, from Munich, Freising and Attaching, with a new courage and confidence. We now all believe that Munich can and will be the German Heathrow. It is now clear: we can stop the third runway at Munich.” Report by a German activist who caught up with activists from Plane Stupid this week in Germany who are there visiting to build networks with those involved in stopping a 3rd runway at Munich Airport.

Perhaps it is best to report chronologically everything that happened at the initiative of the JBN in recent days: press conference on Friday, climate conference on Saturday, meetings with local residents in Freising on Sunday followed by a candle-lit march and short church service, attended by hundreds of people, and on Monday a meeting with the key councilors in Freising.

But more than that – and critical to the success of the visit – were the evenings socializing between the resistance in Bavaria and our visitors from London: Dan Glass (Plane Stupid), Tamsin Omond (Climate Rush) and John Stewart, who chaired the coalition which stopped the third runway at London Heathrow. It has created friendships that go far beyond national borders. None of us who saw 62 year-old John Stewart dance the night away with our young JBN volunteers will ever forget how beautiful and how true it is that we all fight together with a lot of fun and commitment to combat climate change - worldwide! 

On Friday morning our London guests met Dr. Christian Magerl (Chairman of the BN KG Freising - the local group opposed to the runway - a Green Party member of the Bavarian Parliament and an early opponent of the third runway) and Martin Geilhufe (who chairs Young Bavarian Friends of the Earth). They also met with the press on the site of the proposed new runway on land the local group has acquired and on which it has built a cross. By now it was clear the situation in London in 2002 and the present situation in Bavaria are absolutely comparable: a new runway which would devastate the local community, increased noise and climate emissions and a runway for which there was no economic justification.

The JBN Climate Congress on Saturday became a great success thanks to the papers by Christine Margraf (BN Reginalreferentin and runway expert) and John Stewart; the workshops by Dan Glass, Tamsin Omond and Helga Stiegl Meier (representative of the residents’ umbrella organisation). All participants were excellent. The conference ended with videos of the 3rd runway campaign at Heathrow.

After a hard Saturday, a quiet Sunday was planned. But it turned out to be as busy as Saturday’s climate convention. The site visit to Attaching, the community where homes will be demolished and which will find itself on the edge of the new runway, was something else again. We had lunch with the local residents who told us horror stories of the measures that would need to be taken to secure the tiles on the roofs if the new runway was built and of how regulations would prevent children from the local kindergarten playing outside because the noise from the planes will be so harmful.

In the afternoon we returned to nearby Freising to have tea with some more residents before going to a local, packed Protestant church where our guests were welcomed by thunderous applause which lasted for several minutes. Our guests then joined 400 citizens of this small town on a candle-lit march to protest against the third runway (the residents do this every week!). The local people felt that the three people from London had brought them hope. We all then marched with torches and candles to Marienplatz, the main square of Freising where a short service was held. John, Dan and Tamsin then brought greetings from London and sang along with everyone: It was the most spine-tingling moment of the entire weekend.

Plane Stupid head for Germany


Plane Stupid are building in Germany. The campaign against the third runway at Munich could become the German Heathrow - where community action successfully brought the government to it's knees.

Determined local residents are coming together with climate change activists to stop an unnecessary runway. Together with the protests at Frankfurt and Berlin it could bring about a big change in German aviation policy.                                                      

Tour Diary:

25th February - Munich - After a match between Bayern and United Kingdom, countless phone calls and Skype conferencing - all topics are concerned about the protest against the third runway. Here we go! The main question to be explored is what Munich can learn from the Londoners.

26th - 27th February - Frankfurt - Meeting, sharing and organising with the brilliant Frankfurt anti-airport expansion group.

29th February – Berlin – Event Launch: ‘Strategies of Protest from London to Berlin’ what creative tools can we share to put a spanner in the works of injustice? Plane Stupid meets Eclectic Electric Collective  

Venue address: New Yorck im Bethanien, Mariannenplatz 2, Berlin 

Programme in Berlin (Entrance Free):

14h Book Presentation “The El Martillo Project” with members of the Eclectic Electric Collective,

15h Presentation 'Creative Activism & Aviation Justice' by UK activists Tilly Gifford and Dan Glass, 

16h – 19h Direct Action Workshop
What creative tools can we share to put a spanner in the works of injustice?” with Plane Stupid 

20h Soup – Book Launch of “The El Martillo Project” from the Eclectic Electric Collective, published by Minor Compositions + Video screening + performance of the Collective

German airports get expansion fever

German anti-aviation campaigners have been contending with huge regional airport expansion plans. Airport managers hope to stimulate demand by expanding rather than catering to a demand that already exists, excitedly talking up weekend shopping trips to London amongst other equally essential flights.

Construction is already under way at Kassel Calden regional airport, which is going to expand into a commercial airport with the help of massive subsidies of €150 million. Residents, neighbouring municipalities and BUND launched a legal challenge, but their case was dismissed in April last year and a massive forest was cleared last month.

True to style, it wasn’t left at that and campaigners now have to contend with the attempted destruction of the Querumer Forest to lengthen the runway at Braunschweig airport. A spokesperson for the group, Peter Illert said "This airport doesn't serve public interests, it is used by managers of the nearby Volkswagen AG headquarters in Wolfsburg."

Supporting the attempted expansion on such a beautiful natural site is a strange move by Volkswagen, who have been working hard on their greenwash by a sustained campaign of tree planting. Angry at the injustice, climate activists and local groups have set up a vigil camp in the endangered area, similar to one that sprung up near Frankfurt this time last year.

Illert went on to say, "Nowadays, the north of Hessia is a poor country, and gets still poorer - of money and of quality of life - when a new airport is erected for a small number of businessmen and ambitious local politicians for charter traffic and medium distance flights."

We couldn't have said it better ourselves!