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‘Greatest challenge for humanity’: Judge convicting rebel scientists acknowledges climate crisis

Activists take part in an a non-violent action at a BMW showroom in October last year.
Activists take part in an a non-violent action at a BMW showroom in October last year. Copyright Scientist Rebellion
Copyright Scientist Rebellion
By Rosie Frost
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Members of Scientist Rebellion took part in three days of action against multinational investment company BlackRock, car manufacturer BMW and the German government.

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Four activists from Scientist Rebellion have been sentenced in Germany following non-violent protests in October last year.

Yesterday a judge at the Munich Regional Court convicted the activists from Spain, the US and Italy of criminal damage and trespassing but a further charge of coercion was dropped.

The judge reportedly acknowledged the climate crisis as “the greatest challenge for humanity” and took into account that their aim was to call attention to the crisis, not to damage property. But the four activists were sentenced to fines totalling €1,680 each.

If they don’t pay, they will be required to serve 105 days in prison.

Activists accuse judge of ‘valuing private property higher than life’

The activists were sentenced following three days of action against multinational investment company BlackRock, car manufacturer BMW and the German government for their role in fueling the climate crisis.

“There are moments in history in which we are called to take a clear position. This is the time,” says Lorenzo Masini, one of the activists and a Master of Science in Plant Biotechnology from Italy.

“The judge acknowledged the climate emergency, but still, he stated that he had to convict us for damaging private property, apparently valuing private property higher than life.”

The case was the first of several against 16 members of the climate campaign group who took part in the three non-violent actions in October last year.

The scientists, whose fields of expertise range from environmental sciences to physics, were held in pre-trial detention for a week at Stadelheim Prison in Munich last year.

‘I have a moral duty to act’

The group argued in court that their actions were necessary to stop a climate and ecological catastrophe by pressuring the government to act.

“We are in the most dangerous moment for our species,” says Nate Rugh, one of the scientists sentenced. Rugh is from the US and conducts research on environmental conflicts from carbon offsets in Spain.

Activists of the climate change group Scientist Rebellion protest outside the Blackrock building in Munich, Germany, October 25, 2022.
Activists of the climate change group Scientist Rebellion protest outside the Blackrock building in Munich, Germany, October 25, 2022.REUTERS/Louisa Off

“A recent study has calculated that a billion people will die if we go over 2 degrees of global warming, while the world is on course to a 3.2 degree temperature rise by 2100, that would lead to the inevitable collapse of civilization.

“As someone who understands the science, I have a moral duty to act.”

The actions in October last year saw members of the campaign group pour molasses - to represent oil - at the entrance of BlackRock’s offices, cut off traffic at Odeonsplatz in Munich and glue themselves to cars at BMW's headquarters.

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