German police swoop on Last Generation climate activists
Police on Wednesday said they had searched 15 properties linked to members of the Last Generation climate group who are suspected of helping finance a criminal enterprise.
The raids were connected to a string of charges filed against activists from the group since the middle of last year, authorities said.
Police said the internet homepage for Last Generation in Germany had also been shut down on the instructions of the prosecutor's office.
What is the latest that we know?
The Bavarian State Criminal Police Office (BLKA) and the Munich General Public Prosecutor's Office announced that officers had conducted searches of properties in seven states across Germany from 7 a.m. local time (0500 GMT/UTC) on Wednesday.
Seven suspects between 22 and 38 years of age are accused of forming or supporting a criminal organization, although officials said no arrests had yet taken place.
Two of the suspects also allegedly planned to sabotage an oil pipeline linking the Bavarian city of Ingolstadt to the port of Trieste in Italy. The pipeline is considered to be a critical piece of infrastructure in Bavaria.
The suspects are accused of collecting at least €1.4 million ($1.5 million) to finance criminal activities.
The police raids took place in the states of Hesse, Hamburg, Saxony-Anhalt, Saxony, Bavaria, Berlin, and Schleswig-Holstein. Some 170 police officers were deployed nationwide for the operation.
The searches, which were accompanied by orders to seize two bank accounts and other assets, were said to be aimed at securing evidence on Last Generation's membership structure and financing.
The latest inquiry follows an investigation launched last year by prosecutors in Neuruppin, outside Berlin, into actions targeting an oil refinery in eastern Germany.
What is Last Generation?
Germany's Last Generation (Letzte Generation) group has repeatedly blocked traffic in Berlin and other cities in its campaign to press for more strident action to counter global warming.
The group is demanding that the German government formulate a plan to meet an international goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial times.
As well as gluing themselves to busy intersections and highways, its members have targeted various artworks and exhibits.
Dozens of activists from Last Generation and similar groups across Europe have appeared in courts for blocking traffic or obstructing police work. Most were fined, but some courts have started to hand down jail convictions.
The group's tactics have been met with strong criticism, with Chancellor Olaf Scholz saying on Monday that he thought it was "completely crazy to somehow stick yourself to a painting or on the street."
What has been the reaction to the raids?
Last Generation tweeted a German media link to the raids on Wednesday with the hashtag #völligbekloppt (completely crazy), referring to Scholz's comment. It asked when lobby structures would be raided and "government fossil funds" seized.
The group also called for supporters to join marches planned in several German cities next week. A protest was already scheduled to take place in Berlin on Wednesday.
Another climate group, Extinction Rebellion, tweeted that the raids were being conducted to "distract from the real criminals."
Meanwhile, the climate alliance Ende Gelände — which roughly translates as "here and no further" — said the raids were being carried out on "those who warn about the climate crisis and not on those who are responsible for it."
However, Germany's Interior Minister Nancy Faeser insisted that the raids were necessary.
"Legitimate protest always ends where crimes are committed and the rights of others are infringed," Faeser said.
The top German security official added that police had registered 1,600 criminal complaints in connection with climate protests in 2022, many of them during road blockades conducted by Last Generation.
German Police Trade Union leader Rainer Wendt welcomed the news of the raids.
"The population, which suffers thousands of times a day under the street terror of these self-proclaimed climate saviors, is finally being perceived as the real victim of these criminals," Wendt said.
What do climate activists say about their tactics?
While Last Generation acknowledges that its protests are provocative, it says that only by stirring friction can it encourage debate about climate change within society.
German climate activist and researcher Tadzio Müller told DW that European governments cracking down on activist groups like the Last Generation is "a case of shooting the messenger."
Müller defended the Last Generation, saying the group was driven by a rapid escalation of the climate crisis and the "total failure" of policies to counter it.
He also blamed an "active driving forward of the climate catastrophe by expanding fossil fuels, which all northern governments are doing now in this situation."
Müller said that the fight against the climate crisis is inherently an uncomfortable one.
"In fact, I believe that the actions of the Last Generation are, in a way, a prefiguration of a future of climate policy and climate protection, which is going to be annoying, which is going to interrupt our daily lives," he said.
"We have done the things that folks are now asking us to do and have realized that they do not yield any results, because we live in a society that doesn't have the problem of not knowing about the climate crisis," said Müller, who is not himself part of the Last Generation.
"[Society] doesn't want to know about the climate or the climate emergency. And therefore, the Last Generation is choosing tactics that disrupt the kind of normality that people are clinging on to," he added.
fb, rc/nm (AFP, dpa, AP)
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