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German minister urges clampdown on illegal climate protests

Louis Oelofse
November 4, 2022

Interior Minister Nancy Faeser wants activists who break the law to be arrested and prosecuted. It comes amid a wave of civil disobedience acts by activists demanding tougher measures to combat the climate crisis.

Police removing climate activists from a street in Berlin, with three officers in the foreground carrying one person who is not resisting but not cooperating. October 13, 2022.
Protests have taken place all over Germany, but particularly in the capital Berlin, in recent weeksImage: Michael Kuenne/ZUMA/picture alliance

Germany's Interior Minister Nancy Faeser on Thursday took to Twitter to express her "full support" for a "police clampdown" on illegal climate protests if they block paths for emergency vehicles.

"These activists place themselves above the law and resort to means that do not benefit the important cause of climate protection, but instead do considerable damage," she told the German Press Agency (dpa).

She said climate activists who break the law, "must be prosecuted quickly and consequently." 

"When crimes are committed and other people are endangered, then every limit of legitimate protest has been breached," the Social Democrat politician said.

Faeser specifically mentioned an incident in Berlin earlier in the week during which two protesters had glued themselves to a gantry sign on the city's autobahn.

Police said the two men, who are part of the group Last Generation, allegedly slowed emergency services' response to a severe traffic accident.

A cyclist, who had been run over by a cement mixer, was in intensive care following the collision and was declared brain dead on Thursday. 

Berlin's fire brigade said the emergency vehicle was delayed due to heavy traffic but said it could not conclusively blame it on the protesters' actions. A Berlin paramedic told Buzzfeed that as he understood from colleagues on the scene, the patient was reached and treated before the delayed vehicle's arrival and in this specific instance the time lost probably did not affect the medical outcome.

Last Generation expressed regrets over the cyclist's condition but said they "interrupt everyday life because we are in an emergency.

"The government's course is deadly, self-destructive and leading us to climate chaos," the group wrote on Twitter. 

Police union urges surveillance

Over the past few weeks, climate activists across Europe have thrown soup and mashed potatoes and glued themselves to celebrated artworks from Van Gogh's "Sunflowers" to Claude Monet's "Haystacks".

They have sprayed orange paint on buildings, including the headquarters of Germany's ruling coalition parties — the Social Democrats, Greens and Free Democrats — demanding tougher measures to combat the climate crisis.

In each case, the protesters were detained for their actions.

The German Police Union (GdP) says that is not enough, they urged the government to act more decisively against activists that, "are increasingly resorting to criminal means."

The GdP chairperson, Jochen Kopelke, said the union was concerned that activist groups were being infiltrated by extremist groups.

He did not cite in any specific examples but said, "unchecked radicalization can lead first to extremism, then to terrorism. We don't want that, it must not happen here." 

He called for police surveillance of certain groups.

German president warns activists risk losing public support for climate demands

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who is on an official visit to South Korea, said the acts of civil disobedience might be hurting the climate activists' cause.

"The question is whether what we are seeing these days, food being thrown at valuable paintings, or people sticking themselves to the street, really helps the climate goal," Steinmeier said during a visit to Kyoto.

"I'm afraid it will undermine the broad social support to take more decisive climate protection or more specifically rob us of the opportunity to increase this support even more," he added.

In a speech at the Doshisha University in Kyoto he said "shock-induced paralysis or angry protests," wont succeed in containing the climate crisis.

Includes reporting from dpa.

Edited by: Mark Hallam

German climate protesters spark anger

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