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Police, protesters clash at German arms factory

September 2, 2022

The Disarm Rheinmetall anti-war demonstrators were attempting to block the entrance to a factory that manufactures weapons. Germany is the world's fifth-leading arms exporter.

Protestors hold a banner reading 'stop weapons exports'
Protesters held up a banner reading 'stop weapons exports'Image: Swen Pförtner/dpa/picture alliance

Police used pepper spray and batons against protesters in the German city of Kassel in the early hours of Friday morning as anti-war demonstrators attempted to block the entrance to an arms factory.

Officers said the protesters had begun to throw objects at them. At least one person was arrested.

Activists for the Disarm Rheinmetall movement have been calling for protests across the country to try and stop the production and delivery of weapons, including for the war in Ukraine.

The demonstrators had sought to block the morning shift from entering the factory of Rheinmetall's competitor Krauss-Maffei Wegmann. Later, the group claimed to have successfully shut down production at the factory for the day.

Protesters also marched through Kassel, where they encountered several other police blockades before heading towards the Rheinmetall building. Activists posted pictures on social media showing that the company had put black tape over its signage, perhaps in an attempt to not have its logo in photographs.

The demonstration is expected to continue until Sunday.

How big are Germany's arms exports?

Germany is the fifth biggest exporter of arms in the world, coming in just behind China. In 2021, the German arms industry was worth €9.35 billion ($9.34 billion), a significant leap on pre-pandemic sales of €8 billion.

In an interview with the TAZ newspaper, one of the protest organizers, Conni Lenert, called Rheinmetall and similar firms "profiteers of human suffering."

Asked about the war in Ukraine specifically, another organizer, Nina Kemper, said "there is no such thing as a war for peace." Lenert added that "there cannot be peace in our capitalist system," because so many people profit off the buying and selling of weapons.

While you're here: Every Tuesday, DW editors round up what is happening in German politics and society. You can sign up here for the weekly email newsletter Berlin Briefing.

Edited by: Rob Turner

Elizabeth Schumacher
Elizabeth Schumacher Elizabeth Schumacher reports on gender equity, immigration, poverty and education in Germany.