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'They need to be protected’: UN speaks out after Germany raids homes of climate activists

Activists and supporters of the group 'Letzte Generation' Last Generation demonstrate in Stuttgart, Friday May 26, 2023.
Activists and supporters of the group 'Letzte Generation' Last Generation demonstrate in Stuttgart, Friday May 26, 2023. Copyright AP Photo
Copyright AP Photo
By Charlotte Elton
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António Guterres' spokesperson has praised the ‘moral voice’ of climate activists after German raids.

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Climate activists need to be protected against harsh crackdowns, the UN has warned, after German authorities raided the homes of several environmental campaigners.

Police raided the homes of activists in seven German states last week.

170 officers targeted ‘Letzte Generation' (Last Generation) - an activist collective which has disrupted traffic in German cities - searching homes, shutting down the group’s website and freezing several bank accounts.

Speaking to reporters in New York, a spokesperson for UN Secretary-General António Guterres defended the role of climate activists.

“Climate activists – led by the moral voice of young people – have continued to pursue their goals even in the darkest days,”’ spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told newswire dpa.

“They need to be protected and we need them now more than ever.”

Why are German police targeting Last Generation?

Founded in 2021, Last Generation protest climate law through civil disobedience. They conducted 276 road blockades in Germany last year, mostly gluing themselves to highways.

The blockades are a protest against the government’s climate policy, which they insist “protects business profits, breaks its own promises and our democratic constitution.”

Transportation account for around 20 per cent of Germany’s emissions.

Last week’s raids are linked to a series of charges police filed against the group in 2022. Seven suspects aged between 22 and 38 are accused of forming or supporting a criminal organisation.

Two of the group are suspected of planning to sabotage an oil pipeline running between Bavaria and Italy.

The suspects are accused of collecting at least €1.4 million to finance these ‘criminal’ activities.This money has been sourced through donations.

The group is controversial in Germany, where Conservative politicians have lined up to condemn them. Last Monday Chancellor Olaf Scholz said that he thought it was "completely crazy to somehow stick yourself to a painting or on the street." Some have speculated his comments were in part to blame for the raids.

Responding to the raids, Last Generation tweeted #völligbekloppt (completely crazy), referring to Scholz's comment.

Why has the UN stepped in to support activists?

UN Secretary General António Guterres has been outspoken in his support of climate activists.

In March, he named seven young climate leaders to be his Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change. At the announcement, Guterres urged young climate advocates around the world to continue raising their voices and said that the “unrelenting conviction” of young people is essential to keeping climate goals within reach.

Dujarric - Guterres spokesperson - made the comments about the German raids to reporters in New York.

He did note that governments have a responsibility to enforce laws and ensure security. However, he reminded journalists that protestors have forced action on climate change.

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Campaigners have been instrumental at “crucial moments in pushing governments and business leaders to do much more,” he insisted.

“It is clear that a lot of the progress that we have seen on awareness on climate change and positive movement on climate change is due to the fact that people have been demonstrating peacefully throughout the world,” he said.

In other parts of Europe, the Last Generation group have targeted cultural assets. Last week, Last Generation activists poured charcoal into Rome’s Trevi Fountain to demand “an immediate end” to public subsidies for fossil fuels.

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