The Battle of the Elms 1971 videos

Tord Björk | Uncategorized | Monday, October 4th, 2010

The Battle of the Elms was one of the first violent environmental conflicts broadcasted world wide in 1971. After years of tearing down old buildings in the city center and youth counter culture protesting against commercialized culture and authoritarian society the plan to cut down the Elms in the very heart of the city was strongly opposed. In the night between 12 and 13th of May some thousand activists gathered to prevent the authorities that secretly had planned the felling of the trees during the night. All policemen on duty with batons, dogs and horses were sent to the spot to protect the workers. The main organization , Alternativ stad (Alternative city, today a local chapter of Friends of the Earth) behind the protests had a policy of non-violence which was the reason why so many were there. But when the chain saws started to cut into the trees some people were able to break through with some violence the police line, stop the workers and climb the trees. The police used their batons strongly at times and the horses became dangerous as their were whipped by some mounted policemen. Some very few stones and sand was thrown against the police and a crane sabotaged. When the people had occupied the trees the police ordered the workers to stop and withdraw.

The politicians continued to state that the Elms had to be cut down according to democratic rules. Earlier during the conflict the municipality of Stockholm turned the issue over to the government who confirmed the decision already made. The politicians claimed that the felling of the trees was necessary to not prolong the building of a new subway, the subway company stated this was wrong. The only thing that changed if the elms were not cut down was the size of a subway entrance hall.

250 000 participated in the many weeks of celebrations that followed the first victory. After five days the politicians gave up and decided in favor of the opponents. 70 percent was for the Elms in opinion polls and 30 percent also supported the methods used by the activists. Schools were heavily involved. The organization of pupils had promised to mobilize schools after each other in the whole Stockholm area to guard the trees for months. In fact the Battle of the Elms was a military defeat against representative democracy which went down in Swedish history as a victory for peoples democracy. During the millenium celebrations in Stockholm organized by the municipality the Battle of the Elms was a main symbol for democratization of society.

News video from 13.5

The day after public service monopoly TV including the clashes during the night. Politicians and authorities still claim that the elms have to be cut down. The police says they want to avoid serious personal damage and that they did not have enough policemen during the night for avoiding that.

More from this video:

The workers start to cut a tree. The tree is still standing today.

Trying to hold the police line

Sitting down in front of mounted police

News on the Battle of the Elms starting with aerial photos and interviewing Alternativ Stad (Alternativ City) the organisation behind the protests.

More pictures from this video

Documentary about the Battle of the Elms from 1971, part I

More pictures from this video

Signature campaign gathering 40 000 names in a few days before the action

The planned subway entrance which according to the politicians made it necessary to fell the Elms

Citizens arguing against the politicians

The head of the subway in his US car

Documentary about the Battle of the Elms, part II

More pictures from the video

Girl hurt during the action

Climbing the trees

Boy with flute in the trees

Mounted police looking up at the people he no longer can reach

Girl in the trees looking down

Worker pointing at the people in the trees

Wounded by batons in hospital

Documentary about the Battle of the Elms, part III

More pictures from the video

Organizing continued protests

Pupils from schools organized by their central organization SECO  guard the trees preparing for doing it the whole summer


All the time music

Documentary about the Battle of the Elms, part IV

More pictures from the video

Announcing the victory under the elms

Alternativ stad cleaning up and planting new trees in the park after the actions

Women supporting the protests believing that if this battle is won other things in society also can become better

A youth perspective of the times 1965-1971 starting short with youth mods culture 1965 and then the Battle of the Elms and some clippings from the picture “Upp till kamp” – raise up and fight.

More pctures from the video

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