University Occupation for Climate Justice

Besetzung an der Uni Hamburg Seit dem 3. Mai ist der Hörsaal im VMP 9 bereits besetzt.
Activists from the group “Schwupps” occupied the lecture hall in the Von-Melle-Park 9 building at the University of Hamburg on 3 May. They demanded that the university achieve climate neutrality in teaching, research and administration by 2025 at the latest. The university management, however, says that it is already doing enough to reduce CO2 emissions. The lecture hall of the Von-Melle-Park 9 (VMP9) building at the University of Hamburg (UHH) now has sofas and a table tennis table. Since the climate activists of the group “Schwupps” occupied the lecture hall of social economics last Wednesday (3 May), it has become much more comfortable. Some students say they want to spend the night in the lecture hall. What happened? According to “Schwupps”, more than 30 people occupied the lecture hall in VMP9 at 12 noon on 3 May. The lecture taking place there was disrupted with music and banners. One by one, students attached Antifa flags and other posters with slogans like “Eat the Rich” or “Freedom for Kurdistan” to the walls of the room.

Occupation as a sign for climate justice

With the occupation, the activists want to set an example for climate justice and create a broad public for the issue. Like Fridays for Future, just a touch more energetic. The climate protection measures of the German government are not enough for the protesters. Above all, the members of SCHWUPPS would like to end the burning of fossil fuels immediately. The whole thing is paired with a fundamental critique of capitalism.
“The university, as an educational institution, has failed to live up to its responsibility to make the world a more just place” “Schwupps” about the University of Hamburg
  The UHH does not get off scot-free either. On the group’s website it says: “The university, as an educational institution, has failed to live up to its responsibility to make the world a more just place in the past”. The university should not submit to a capitalist profit logic that would lead to high cafeteria prices or austerity measures in professorships and study programmes. Schwupps also wants the university to give students more opportunities for participation. This should make the university more democratic.   The University of Hamburg was initially unimpressed by the occupation. In a statement it says: “The room at Von-Melle-Park 9 cannot be used for teaching until further notice and there will be minor restrictions on teaching”.

End Fossil: Occupy! calls for occupations of German universities

The occupation in Hamburg is not an isolated case. Schwupps belongs to the Germany-wide movement End Fossil: Occupy! This movement has made a name for itself in the last two years by occupying public educational institutions. End Fossil addresses its actions to the Global Climate Justice Movement and also pleads for an end to “fossil capitalism”. Last winter, the movement had already occupied numerous universities in Germany. At the beginning of May, the second “occupation wave” started, in which schools and universities all over Germany are to be occupied again. Among them is the University of Hamburg. Universities in Regensburg, Berlin, Halle and Munich experienced their first occupations at the beginning of last week. In Berlin, students even occupied the auditorium of the Melanchthon-Gymnasium in Hellersdorf. On May 3rd, the University of Hamburg was also occupied. The plan for the occupation had been known for about a month because the activists organised themselves on social media platforms like Telegram. The corresponding groups were accessible to all users.

The movement wants to socialise the electricity producers

For the current “occupation wave” End Fossil has set up two central demands: Socialise energy production and a debt cut for the countries of the Global South. Large electricity producers like RWE should be expropriated and transferred into democratic hands. The activists hope that this will lead to truly ecological electricity production and a distribution of the resource in line with demand. The second demand is linked to the concept of climate justice: Because the countries of the Global North are responsible for the majority of global emissions, they have a so-called climate debt to the countries of the Global South. Therefore, their debts to the industrialised countries should be cancelled immediately.

Schwupps demands Climate neutrality of the university by 2025

The members of Schwupps agree with these central demands. However, the occupiers also have concrete demands for the University of Hamburg. For example, the net emissions of teaching, research and administration should be zero in two years. The activists are thus joining the demand of the university group Students for Future. They already urged the university administration at the beginning of this year to achieve climate neutrality by 2025. The university is holding back on specifying a concrete goal. The university’s climate and environmental officer only states on his website that the university aims to become climate neutral before 2030. Laura Marie Edinger-Schons , who has been Chief Sustainable Officer (CSO) at UHH since December 2022, is even more sceptical in an interview with the WELT: “We want to achieve that (climate neutrality). But in such a way that we can also reconcile it with our conscience.”

Uni shows lack of cooperation

A compromise between the two parties on this issue still seems a long way off, not least because the university is not prepared to listen. It is convinced that it is already doing enough for climate protection. In response to a question from KOPFZEILE, the press spokesperson for the university president explained: “UHH is already making great efforts in the area of sustainability […] A sustainability strategy with various measures is being developed and implemented: among other things, comprehensive emissions balancing, creation of a climate protection concept, compensation for emissions that cannot be reduced, savings in new buildings and renovations. It goes on to say that a Tiny House has recently been built on campus, where students can exchange ideas on the topic of sustainability. According to the logic of the university, occupation is therefore not necessary because the Tiny House already functions as a place of confrontation. Furthermore, the climate activists demand a free conversion of the semester ticket into the Deutschlandticket. Students at the University of Hamburg can currently only upgrade their semester ticket to the “Deutschlandticket” for a monthly surcharge of 18.20€. A fact that caused a lot of displeasure. Recently, students demanded more student space at the university where they can organise themselves politically.

Lectures and workshops in the occupied lecture hall

The occupation is not supposed to end until the university has implemented all the demands. An activist told Kopfzeile that the group had planned an “occupation programme” for the next week and a half. On Wednesday evening, a queerfeminist rap concert already took place in the lecture hall of the Social Economy. Numerous workshops and lectures on climate justice are to follow in the next few days. Of course, there are not only anti-capitalist education activities during the occupation. Every morning, for example, the activists start the day with a communal breakfast. A small tea table has been set up in a corner of the room. However, it is still unclear whether it will remain this cozy or whether the activists will soon have to share the lecture hall with the police. When asked whether the university would clear the lecture hall with the help of the police, the president’s press spokesperson did not give an answer. Schwupps believes that police intervention is unlikely. They are confident that the public nature of the campus will provide them with protection from police violence. The first conversation between Schwupps, the university president and the AStA took place on Monday at 12 noon. Possibly on the sofas in the lecture hall of VMP9. Editor’s note: In the meantime, the climate activists of Schwupps have occupied the Tiny House on campus mentioned in the article (as of 09.05.2023).