Sometimes they block roads. Sometimes they break into oil rigs. Sometimes they prevent air traffic. As climate activists say, such drastic measures are necessary. The authorities in other European countries see only damage and threats in such actions. They begin to treat activists as organized crime groups. This includes wiretapping and preventive detention.
In the name of climate protection, they stick to pavements and roads, destroy works of art and damage property. In this extreme way, they want – as they explain – to force governments to take urgent action to stop the climate catastrophe and see a growing lack of understanding.
“What we’ve been seeing lately is extremely worrying. Activists around the world are experiencing increased repression simply because they are fighting for our present and our future, says Greta Thunberg, activist. The Last Generation activist planned to stick to a German highway in June. He did not arrive at the place, because he was carried out of his own home and a moment later he was taken into police custody. – I was arrested before I even took part in the protest. “Preventively,” says the police, explains Simon Lachner.
Forms of protest – such as blocking traffic – gained momentum across Europe in 2022. Law enforcement activities have also gained momentum. – All these protests are justified. The climate situation is catastrophic and the threat to all of us as humanity is enormous. It’s about our lives. That’s why protesting, even in such an intense and sometimes bizarre way, is completely justified and I will fight for it – announces Simon Lachner.
Activists from several organizations in Germany have been targeted by the local services. From January to June 19, more than 2,200 investigations into the actions of environmentalists were launched there. Mainly from two organizations – Last Generation and Extinction Rebellion. Law enforcement agencies are wondering if they are criminal organizations. – Whether Last Generation is a criminal organization within the meaning of Art. 129 of the German Criminal Code, is currently under investigation. This is a legal question that needs to be answered on the basis of the facts. At the current stage of the proceedings, we assume that it is a criminal organization, says Klaus Ruhland, spokesman for the Munich Prosecutor General.
As politicians from the government explain – such an expression of opposition is simply vandalism that harms the case. – I have always emphasized that we can fight the climate crisis only in a democratic way. Taking this into account is very important. From my point of view, the activities of the Last Generation organization are detrimental to social commitment to tackling climate change, points out Nancy Faeser, German Minister of the Interior.
British politicians are of a similar opinion. – We saw, especially in the second half of last year, many protests that limited the rights of others. We saw 10km of traffic jams on the motorway around London, people glued to the roads. In December, we faced a street blocking group that was deliberately trying to cause as much confusion as possible. All these people did not so much exercise their right to protest as they tried to create as many problems and inconveniences as possible for their fellow citizens. This is not something this government supports. This is one of the reasons why we are introducing the new law, explains Chris Philp, the British Minister for Crime, Police and Fire.
The UK in May made it illegal to block roads and stick to them. Interfering with the operation of the country’s key infrastructure is punishable by up to 12 months in prison.
– They are introducing more and more anti-protest regulations, giving the police more and more powers. Recently, they banned us from slowly marching with small banners. The police are pushing people off the street, threatening to arrest them within minutes of the start of the protest, says Indigo Rumbelow, an activist of the Just Stop Oil group.
In France, according to Reuters, an anti-terrorist unit was also used to detain some climate activists. The French government declined to comment on the matter but has previously said the state must be able to fight what it calls “radicalisation”. – This is part of the wave of repression against the environmental movement that has flooded all of Europe. In France, particularly harsh measures were taken. It is the only country where an anti-terrorist unit has been involved in the activities against environmentalists, says Basile Dutertre, spokesman for the Rise for the Earth group. Activists say they have turned to direct action after other protest strategies have failed. They explain that civil disobedience has a long history in social movements, including the struggle for the right to vote for women and the civil rights movement in the United States.
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Main photo source: Reuters