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Berlin: Climate activists block roads, chaotic weeks ahead

September 18, 2023

After spraying the Brandenburg Gate orange, climate activists continued their protests by blocking traffic in Berlin. With the Berlin Marathon coming up, the capital is expecting a chaotic few weeks.

Last Generation activists block a street in Friedrichshain, faced by a policeman on a motorbike
Stand-off: climate activists blocked over twenty roads in Berlin on Monday morningImage: Fabrizio Bensch/REUTERS

Members of the Last Generation climate group disrupted rush-hour traffic in over 20 locations across Berlin on Monday morning, kicking off a latest wave of protests calling for an end to the use of fossil fuels.

The group themselves said there had been at least 30 sit-down protests across the German capital, including at motorways exits and key thoroughfares into central Berlin. Local police deployed up to 500 officers and confirmed incidents at 21 locations.

The hand of a climate activist seen glued to the street in Berlin
Sticky situation: Climate activists have been glueing themselves to the streetImage: REUTERS

In some areas, activists repeated their typical strategy of gluing themselves to the tarmac, with police saying that they had used a particularly strong mixture of adhesive, making it more difficult to free them.

Police said that one member of the public had been arrested in the western district of Spandau for trying to do just that.

The Monday morning protests came less than 24 hours after Last Generation activists used fire extinguishers to spray orange paint over all six columns of Berlin's iconic Brandenburg Gate.

Local authorities said that anti-protection will have spared any lasting damage, with the monument set to be cleaned up by Wednesday.

"We will only end our protests once change has been ushered in," the group said in a statement, demanding an end to the use of fossil fuels by 2030. The German government's current plans foresee the German economy becoming climate-neutral by 2045.

"We are determined to continue our resistance for as long as necessary," the group added on Monday morning.

Governing mayor of Berlin Kai Wegner called the paint protest a criminal act and said: "Those who are serious about climate protection should distance themselves from such action and from this group."

Last Generation: further protests planned

Fourteen people were arrested, with six still in detention as of Sunday evening, according to police. But the protests are set to continue this week with events planned in the Berlin suburbs of Prenzlauer Berg (Monday) and Wilmersdorf (Tuesday) under the motto: "What will you do? We have a plan."

The famous Brandenburg Gate was targeted by climate activists on Sunday
A Clockwork Orange: The famous Brandenburg Gate was targeted by climate activists on SundayImage: Paul Zinken/dpa/picture alliance

Further Monday traffic blockades are planned for October 23 and November 27 as part of what protesters are calling "Turning Point Autumn 2023."

Berlin police chief Barbara Slowik has promised to take a hard line against disruption, insisting that the police have lots of experience in dealing with such situations.

In total, as of last Friday, charges have already been pressed against 2,860 road blockers, including 2,458 members of the Last Generation and a further 402 against members of Extinction Rebellion, the public prosecutor told news agency DPA. There have been 820 confirmed repeat offenders.

Prosecutors have generally been issuing fines to avoid overloading an already overstretched criminal justice system, but activists usually appeal, meaning cases end up going to court anyway, reported the Berliner Zeitung.

The local newspaper is predicting a "week of permanent traffic jams" in the capital, with several large-scale road repair projects set to begin and other non-climate-related demonstrations taking place.

Finally, this coming Sunday, there's the small matter of the 2023 Berlin Marathon.

mf/rc (AFP/dpa)

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