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WWF worried about optics of Last Generation protests

March 7, 2023

Climate activists covering the "Basic Law 49" artwork with black paint had priorly led to outrage from the public.

Activists of "Letzte Generation" (Last Generation) splash black liquid on the "Basic Law 49" artwork about constitutional rights at a Bundestag building
The "Basic Law 49" artwork was doused by members of the Last Generation on SaturdayImage: Christian Mang/REUTERS

The German branch of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) expressed concerns about the optics of the latest protests by the Last Generation, a German climate activist group, fearing a decrease in public support for climate protection measures. The Last Generation group has gained prominence recently by splashing famous artworks with soup and slowing traffic by gluing themselves to streets. 

What the WWF executive director said 

"This is false symbolism," said the executive director of WWF Germany, Christoph Heinrich, in front of newspapers of the Bavarian Media Group, in reference to an attack on the "Basic Law 49" monument about constitutional rights in Berlin. "A disservice is being done to climate protest here."

How far should civil disobedience go?

Heinrich expressed worries that such actions could make the public believe climate protection was only "a concern of extremists." 

Referring to climate activists gluing themselves to the streets, Heinrich said, "It's provocative, it's annoying, but that's the way protest is." Such protests could "somehow still be talked about." Moreover, actions like these were directed against carbon-emitting vehicles. 

Climate activists painting over a Constitution Monument in Berlin
The climate action was supposed the raise awareness to the government's climate policy, the group saidImage: Sven Kaeuler/dpa/picture alliance

On the other hand, defacing a monument about the constitution was "like calling the constitution into question — and that should not be the message of the Last Generation."

The WWF board frowned upon climate protests that went against the law. "We work differently, we look for solutions, and we want to build bridges in society instead of digging the trenches even deeper," said Heinrich. He added that one cannot always "go to extremes with provocation".

What the activists were demanding 

Activists of the Last Generation doused the "Basic Law 49" artwork with black paint on Saturday. They said they wanted to draw attention to what they deem the German government's inadequate climate policy.

They also demanded Germany stop using fossil fuels earlier than the government was proposing. The protest triggered outrage across party lines.

First Last Generation prison sentence without probation

Two climate activists from the activist group Last Generation were sentenced to several months in prison without probation. The two men were sentenced by a district court on Monday, a court spokesperson said on Tuesday. One was sentenced to three months in prison and the other to two months. 

According to a spokesperson for the group, this was the first prison sentence without probation for members of the group. The men had glued themselves on a street in Heilbronn in February, she said. 


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los/sms (AFP, dpa)