Eviction of Ferrarisbos Forest Occupation Wilrijk, Antwerp, Belgium

groNoord logoAt 7am on Tuesday 3rd of September individuals occupying a wrongly zoned Farraris forest in Wilrijk were woken by the sound of chainsaws. Breaking the news to all that the forest was being evicted. The first arrest of an individual in a tent on the ground, followed swiftly: the tent was unzipped and the occupant ordered out although was not informed of their arrest or their rights. A cherry picker was used to gain access to the two platforms. One individual was lifted into the cherry picker and arrested. Another individual was locked on, and a cutting team was used to break the lock on, remove the person and arrest them. A fourth individual, in a bed spiral (hanging treehouse) the tree was climbed and the individual removed and arrested. The whole process took 2-3hrs, within 5hrs the forest had been cut.

Local supporters and press were at first not allowed through to outside the forest. After sometime they managed to make their way through. Some locals chose to sarcastically applaud as a representative of Essers went past. This resulted in 3 individuals being administratively arrested*.

Essers is the company responsible for the cutting of this forest. Wanting to build warehouse there, at present there is no known client for this warehouse as the previous prospective tenant pulled out of the contract.
Within Belgium there is zoning of land - land is designated for a particular use. This is out of date and therefore not accurate. Where forest (as in this case) is zoned as industrial land it is very easy to acquire the necessary permits required to fell the forest.
Ferrarisbos forest is land that in 1771 whilst Ferraris was surveying and mapping Belgium was found to be forest. This means the forest that was felled 03/09/13 was over 250 years old.
Flanders (region within Belgium) has one of the lowest percentages of remaining woodland in the EU with 8% of woodlands remaining, 20% is considered a “healthy” minimum.
The forest felled 03/09/13 was an important breeding habitat for over 20 bird species including woodpeckers. Also the forest was the summer home and hunting ground to many bats possibly including endangered and protected species, and groups of red squirrels. A Belgian Government Agency advised that if felling was to take place it should happen between the 15th of September and the 15th of October or during the spring to ensure minimal disruption to the animals living there.

There was a total of 7 arrests throughout the day, 4 of occupiers of the forest and 3 local supporters. All the arrests were administrative*.
Of the occupiers the first was quickly released due to having their passport with them. 2 were released after fingerprints and photos were taken. The one remaining occupier spoke no dutch and police refused to speak more than limited English to them, refused to provide food and then informed them they would be taken to foreign detention at some point (between in 5 minutes and 2 days). After becoming distressed the individual gave their name and was then released after being driven to a small street in Antwerp with no money, no idea of their location and no means of contacting anyone.

The 3 locals arrested during the eviction of the forest all chose to give their IDs resulting in a short detention for 2 of them. 1 was taken to prison, being told this would be for 12 months, after 5 hours they were released and put on tag for 3 months. It is unclear why and how this has happened.

Further Action
People from the Occupation of the Forest have asked for solidarity demos outside Belgian Embassies against the cutting of wrongly zoned forests.
Shortly there will also be further information for communications blockades.

*Administrative Arrest is where an individual is arrested for identification, this can last up to 12hrs if the individual chooses to give their name or has ID on them. The arrest can last up to 24hrs if no name is given.