The demonstrators in Stuttgart pride themselves on being creative, humorous, loud, persistent and peaceful, though the press and conservative politicians try to portray them as rioters.
I was reminded of demonstrations against the Vietnam war that I attended in Berlekey in the 1960s -– what I saw on the streets bore little resemblance to what came out later in the papers or on television.
The Stuttgart protesters say they are not just demonstrating against a plan to spend billions of Euros for 33 kilometers of tunnels leading to a slanting underground railroad station, they are also demonstrating in favor of an alternative plan to preserve, modernize and optimize the city's well-functioning ground-level terminal.
Additional photos: More demonstrators in Stuttgart on July 9, 2011. As you can see, the demonstrators come from all age groups, including lots of older folks like me.
GPS 48°46'57.81" North; 9°10'55.04" East
The Castle Park (Schlossgarten) is a favorite place for cycling in Stuttgart.
I've never actually cycled myself in Stuttgart, because the opera house is only a five-minute walk from the station, but I'm told the bicycle situation has improved in recent years, despite the fact that Stuttgart is still a city with a huge car problem.
Like any other German city, Stuttgart has a large and active chapter of the General German Bicycle Club (ADFC). They have recently succeeded in getting the one-way streets opened in both directions for cyclists, and bicycles can now be taken on the subway and suburban trains (U-Bahn and S-Bahn) at no extra cost.
I am of course a member of the ADFC, but in Frankfurt not Stuttgart.
Second photo: Cycling and walking in the Castle Park (Schlossgarten).
GPS 48°47'0.57" North; 9°11'3.55" East
Adjoinging the south end of the central railway station is the Castle Park (Schlossgarten), a 600-year-old strip of park with beautiful large trees, some of which are hundreds of years old.
On the night of September 30, 2010, hundreds of protesters chained themselves to some of these old trees in an attempt to prevent them from being cut down to make way for the new underground railway station. Police using water cannon forcibly removed the demonstrators and numerous trees were immediately cut down. This was the most drastic police action in Germany in a quarter century and had numerous repercussions, including a lost election for the politicians who ordered it.
To prevent even more old trees from being cut down, members of the "park protectors" group have been camping in the park and keeping watch round the clock for the past year. Thousands of protesters are registered with the group and have promised to come to the park at short notice if needed.
GPS 48°47'0.09" North; 9°11'7.25" East
As of 2011, one of the very contentious issues in Stuttgart is the "ground water management", which means lowering level of the ground water quite drastically so the new underground station can be built. These blue pipes in the photo are supposed to be set up above ground, on stilts, and run for eighteen km through the center of Stuttgart, to carry off the ground water.
A group called "Engineers against S21" claims that the pipes are unsuitable for ground water and have already started to rust. They also say that the removal of so much ground water will threaten the stability of nearby buildings and will endanger the Stuttgart's mineral water springs.
Protesters attempted to prevent the delivery of these pipes by holding sit-down strikes every morning for several weeks and in some cases letting themselves be carried away by the police. (As of this writing they are still blocking the entrance starting at six o'clock every morning; the protesters in Stuttgart are nothing if not persistent.)
Second photo: Blue tanks for ground water management.
GPS 48°47'1.34" North; 9°11'2.31" East
At the end of the demonstration the people spread out around three sides of the station and at a signal released hundreds of green balloons into the sky.
On the green balloons it says "K21", which is the alternative proposal to "S21".
The K in "K21" stands for Kopfbahnhof, the German word for terminal. Since 1996 (!) the opponents of the projected underground mini-station have been proposing instead to modernize and optimize the existing ground level terminal, which they say would be cheaper, faster, safer and more effective than digging 33 km of tunnels and putting everything underground.
I took these photos at the north end of the station. It was here that one entire wing of the station was demolished starting on August 25, 2010, despite the protests of thousands of demonstrators.
Second photo: More green balloons in the sky above the station, or rather above the gap where the north wing of the station used to be.
Third photo: A band playing as the balloons were going up. My photos are from July 9, 2011.
GPS 48°47'5.16" North; 9°10'50.85" East
Music at the demonstration, before and between the speeches, was provided by a local funk, soul and jazz group called Queen Mum and the Kings of Rhythm.
The speeches were very good, by the way. Clear, strong, short and to the point.
The lady at the microphone is Andrea Conradt, aka Queen Mum. You can see and hear her on YouTube, on the link below:
In the 1990s there were plans in several German cities to replace the existing ground level terminals, where the tracks ended, with smaller underground stations that would have tracks coming in through tunnels from both directions. The plans for "Frankfurt 21" and "Munich 21" were announced with great fanfare, discussed for a few years and then quietly dropped when it became evident that that the projects would be too expensive and too risky to justify the very slight gain in travel time that might result.
The plans for "Stuttgart 21" were initially discarded for the same reasons, but were revived at the beginning of the 21st century (which is what the 21 stands for) at the insistence of local and regional politicians who were primarily interested in getting rid of the railroad tracks so they could use the real estate for "urban development" or simply for sale to private investors. This is what the protesters mean when they say that "Stuttgart 21" is primarily a real estate project, not a transportation project.
They also say the presence of large automobile manufacturing companies near Stuttgart is a factor, since the car companies have little interest in preserving a well-functioning railway. And they point out that the world's largest tunneling company (a major contributor to German political parties) has its headquarters in Schwanau, Baden-Württemberg, a little over a hundred kilometers from Stuttgart.
Additional photos: More demonstrators in Stuttgart on July 9, 2011.
GPS 48°46'57.81" North; 9°10'55.04" East
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