Climate activists to block European cities for the week

"The federal government's climate policy is a slap in the face. I have never felt so abandoned by politics," a protester told EURACTIV. [Clemens Bilan/ epa]

Protests by climate activists took place in 60 cities around the world on Monday (7 October). The Extinction Rebellion movement has announced its intention to block Berlin for a week as it wants to urge politicians to do more to protect the climate. EURACTIV Germany reports.

In Berlin, around 1,000 people blocked all access roads to the Siegessäule (Victory Column) in the morning and built a wooden ark there. The speaker was the captain of Sea Watch III, Carola Rackete, who is part of the movement.

Around noon, the Berlin police sent another squad of emergency forces and considered clearing the crossroads, but they did not have to do so. Berlin’s interior senator had previously announced that the protesters would first be allowed to go ahead and that protests should be dealt “with a sense of proportion”.

The Extinction Rebellion, which originated in the UK, announced protests to take place in 60 cities worldwide. Indeed, public places were occupied in France, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria, Italy, Sweden, UK. Demonstrations also took place in New York, Buenos Aires and Australia.

Demonstrator: “I have never felt so abandoned by politics”

In Germany, Berlin is to be blocked day and night for a whole week, according to the group’s announcement.

“We are disturbing the daily routine, which is destroying our livelihoods. We will continue to protest until governments respond appropriately,” the group said.

For several days now, supporters of the movement have been camping near the Chancellery, where a so-called ‘climate camp’ with workshops and lectures took place during the weekend.

On Monday, during lunchtime, several hundred protesters gathered at Berlin’s Potsdamer Platz and blocked all passageways. People occupied the streets with blankets, tables and sofas. The group is mixed, “from toddlers to adults there are people from all parts of society. Many have certainly joined from Fridays for Future,” one young woman told EURACTIV.

“The federal government’s climate policy is a slap in the face. I have never felt so abandoned by politics,” another protester told EURACTIV.

Hundreds of protesters have been blocking Potsdamer Platz in Berlin since Monday noon. They have spread blankets, and a stage has been set up. [Photo: Florence Schulz]

On 20 September, the German government presented a national package of measures worth €54 billion to meet climate targets by 2030. For the first time, a carbon price for the buildings, agriculture and transport sector is to be introduced.

Critics, however, have accused the government of lacking ambition and are demanding a significantly higher price for greenhouse gas emissions. According to a Spiegel document, the bill, which is to be passed by the cabinet on Wednesday (9 October), could be weakened.

German government wants to weaken country's proposed climate protection goals

Although many have called for improvements to the German climate package, the government wants to impose a weaker formulation of the core climate protection goals. EURACTIV’s partner Der Tagesspiegel reports.

According to Berlin police, no violent incidents have occurred so far, nor have there been any arrests. But the Extinction Rebellion movement is known for its provocative approach.

In London, the movement had blocked several busy bridges in the city centre last November, and in March, demonstrators spilt around 200 litres of artificial blood in front of Downing Street.

The movement demands climate neutrality by 2025

The demands of climate activists go far beyond what is currently the subject of political debate in Germany. They demand that all national governments immediately declare a climate emergency and that a citizens’ assembly adopt necessary measures.

Besides, the EU should already be climate neutral in 2025 – at present, the EU is still struggling to reach a collective commitment for 2050.

In Germany, reactions to the protests are divided.

Green MEP Sven Giegold tweeted that civil disobedience is legitimate, but said that “even this protest has its limits. Violence, coercion and authoritarianism go too far”.

FDP leader Christian Lindner also had some harsh words to spare, saying that “Extinction Rebellion openly questions democracy. Climate activists and Greens should distance themselves from the anti-democratic and partly totalitarian statements of this group.”

Protesters in Berlin hold a banner saying “Stopp! Klimakrise! Jetzt handeln” (Stop climate crisis! Act now). [Photo: Florence Schulz]


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