German Interior Minister calls for police clampdown on illegal climate protests
After a week of heated discussions in Germany about climate activists' demonstration tactics, Interior Minister Nancy Faeser has said that protestors who illegally block emergency vehicles should be prosecuted.
German minister calls for police climate clampdown
Germany’s Interior Minister Nancy Faeser announced on Twitter on Thursday that she was in support of a “police clampdown” on climate activists who block pathways for emergency vehicles.
The SPD minister wrote, “Whoever blocks the way for emergency vehicles puts human lives at stake. We saw that in a dreadful way this week in Berlin. The police have my complete support for a drastic clampdown.” Her comments came after a cyclist was left braindead by an accident in Berlin. Accusations were thrown up that climate protestors slowed the arrival of the emergency services.
Speaking to the dpa, Faeser said, “This has nothing whatsoever to do with democratic debate. The criminals must be prosecuted quickly and consistently. [...] The police have my fullest support when they crack down on self-proclaimed climate activists who have been putting other people in danger for weeks with completely unacceptable actions. These activists put themselves above the law and resort to means that do not benefit the important cause of climate protection, but cause considerable harm."
Berlin climate protestors accused of blocking rushing ambulance
Faeser’s words come after a week of discussion surrounding protest methods by the German climate movement. On Monday, the German climate activist group Letzte Generation (Last Generation) blocked a street in the Berlin district of Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf and became caught up in a more serious incident.
In a series of dramatic events, a woman cyclist was run over by a cement mixer. When the driver got out to check if the woman was okay, he was stabbed by an onlooker. According to Tagesspiegel, it was wrongly reported during the week that the woman had died; on Thursday the police announced that she had been taken to hospital and unfortunately declared braindead.
The incident made headlines when accusations were floated that the climate protest had help up ambulances on their way to aid the woman. However, according to an interview with a paramedic in Buzzfeed News Germany, the blockade didn't conclusively impact the patient's outcome. The paramedic indicated that other colleagues had attended the scene and treated the woman ahead of the delayed ambulance's arrival.
Letzte Generation has said that following the week’s events and reporting of the incident that they believe the media publicly exploited the cyclist accident. Claiming that they had “informed the police before going on to a sign gantry and asked for emergency vehicles to be diverted and the A100 to be completely closed to traffic. We always have a rescue lane in all our protests”, they said they were “shocked that we cannot rely on the simplest principles of democracy, such as neutral fact-based reporting.”
Climate activist Neubauer accuses Scholz of indirectly endangering lives
Following the series of events, chancellor Olaf Scholz called on climate activists not to endanger other people during their demonstrations.
In response, well-known Fridays for Future activist Luisa Neubauer said that Scholz’s plea was hypocritical. "It is the chancellor himself who is contributing to the indirect endangerment of people on a large scale by blocking rapid climate protection,” Neubauer said in a statement to the dpa. “Climate protection is needed precisely so that people can be safe from climate catastrophes,” the activist from Hamburg added.
Neubauer stressed, “The legitimacy of actions stands and falls with the fact that people are not put in danger. The formation of an emergency lane is regularly planned for all actions - also for Fridays for Future. This was also the approach of Letzte Generation.”
Climate crisis already costs Germany 6,6 billion euros per year
In the same week as Lezte Generation’s protests for the introduction of a speed limit of 100 km/h on German motorways and making public transport affordable through a 9-euro ticket”, among other policies, Focus magazine reported that the climate crisis is already costing Germany 6,6 billion euros per year.
The number is estimated by the Prognos Institute in a study that was commissioned by the German Federal Ministry of Economics. It calculated that damages caused by drought and extreme heat in the summers of 2018 and 2019 cost Germany almost 35 billion euros. This is mainly due to agricultural - especially wheat and potato - production losses. Additionally, at least 7.500 deaths in Germany during 2018 and 2019 were attributed to extreme heat.
The study also estimated that flood damage to private households, transport and buildings in recent years cost Germany around 40,5 billion euros. During the 2021 floods in federal states surrounding the Ahr and Erft rivers, at least 183 people were killed.
Thumb image credit: Letzte Generation / (C) Tenzin Heatherbell / CC-BY-4