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German climate activists claim crackdown on protests has led to a ‘huge outcry of solidarity’

A police officer removes a demonstrator during a march by climate activists of the Last Generation group as they walk down Karl-Marx-Allee boulevard in Berlin.
A police officer removes a demonstrator during a march by climate activists of the Last Generation group as they walk down Karl-Marx-Allee boulevard in Berlin. Copyright John MACDOUGALL / AFP
Copyright John MACDOUGALL / AFP
By Rosie Frost
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Despite increased violence and police raids, the protest group says hundreds of people showed up for street blockades in May and June.

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Violent attacks on climate protesters in Germany saw a sharp increase this year, according to figures released last week by police in Berlin.

Officials said they opened 66 investigations into motorists suspected of committing crimes against Last Generation during the first five months of 2023. Last year, the total number was just 18.

The group’s tactics include repeatedly blocking roads often attracting the anger of drivers. But a police spokesperson told Berlin daily newspaper Tagesspiegel that there was no indication motorists were becoming more violent, and the increase in attacks may simply be down to the higher number of blockades.

It isn’t just the ire of drivers Last Generation has been attracting either. In late May, Chancellor Olaf Schulz said he thought it was “completely nutty to somehow stick yourself to a painting or on the street.”

Just a few days later, German police carried out raids the homes of Last Generation activists across seven states. Despite support from politicians across the spectrum, this sparked debate across the country and protests in cities like Berlin.

In response to the raids, UN spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric told reporters in New York that, while governments have a duty to uphold the law, “people also have a fundamental right to demonstrate peacefully to have their voices heard.”

“They must be protected, and we need them now more than ever,” he added.

JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP
Climate activists of the "Letzte Generation" (Last Generation) group display a banner reading: "More democracy, council of the people now!".JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP

How have the raids and violence affected Last Generation?

According to the protest group, the increasing reaction to their blockades is also having another effect.

Theo Schnarr, a member of Last Generation, says that in his experience, the group has definitely seen an increase in the number of people taking part in actions in Berlin.

“From the middle of May to the beginning of June hundreds of people were part of street blockades as well as protest marches.”

He says that he has seen “way more solidarity than there was before.”

People are still angry at the protesters and there is definitely still violence against them, but according to Schnarr, there are a lot more people defending and cheering for the activists too.

JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP
A demonstrator displays a placard reading: "We shouldn't save the planet, but ourselves".JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP

“Also, there has been a huge outcry of solidarity after the police of Bavaria executed search warrants in some protesters' homes, which a big part of our society found illegitimate.”

In short, he says Last Generation is growing in number and the number of people supporting the blockades is growing too.

“More and more people are demanding to focus on the government's failure in climate politics, which is another effect following the attention that we put onto the topic.”

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