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German police raid last generation environmentalist protest group

BERLIN — German police on Wednesday launched a series of raids across the country against a group of climate activists known for attacking art and sticking to the roads to raise awareness.

The searches targeted 15 properties in seven states, linked to members of the “Letzte Generation” (last generation) group. Seven suspects between the ages of 22 and 38 are being investigated for forming or supporting a criminal organization, police said.

The suspects are accused of organizing a fundraising campaign to fund criminal activity, advertising it on their website and raising at least $1.5 million in donations so far.

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“These funds were, according to current information, mainly used to commit new criminal actions by the association,” the police said, without specifying the nature of the “criminal action”.

Last Generation, which has been condemned by Germany’s Green Party, rose to prominence last year with a wave of food-related climate protests, including throwing mashed potatoes at a Monet painting at the Barberini Museum in Potsdam. The activists also glued themselves to the roads, even to the tracks to disrupt traffic.

The protests aim to draw more attention to climate change through acts of civil disobedience.

Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck of the Green Party, which is part of the ruling coalition, described their tactics as “unnecessary” and “flat-out wrong”, while Chancellor Olaf Scholz said this week that the group’s methods were ” crazy”.

German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser told German media that legitimate protests end when crimes are committed and the rights of others are violated. “If that red line is crossed, then the police must also act.”

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Two of the suspects arrested on Wednesday are accused of planning to sabotage an oil pipeline between the Bavarian city of Ingolstadt and the Italian port of Trieste. The pipeline is considered an essential piece of infrastructure in the southern German state. Prosecutors also confiscated accounts and assets secured during the searches, and the group’s website was shut down.

According to the prosecution, the procedure was initiated “due to the numerous criminal complaints from the population received since mid-2022”.

At a press conference held by climate activists on Wednesday, Aimée van Baalen, a spokeswoman said the group “will continue to resist”.

“The need to resist is not diminished by criminalization,” she said, adding that as long as the federal government flouts the law, activists will continue to exercise their right to peaceful protest.

Last Generation says it wants the government to submit a detailed plan for how Germany can achieve a goal of limiting temperature increases to 1.5 Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.

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The German capital Berlin, where the city’s justice minister decides whether the latest generation is a “criminal organisation”, has become a particular concern in recent months, with the group saying it wants to “bring Berlin to a standstill”.

Scenes of angry motorists using violence against seated protesters have become commonplace. Those stuck to the tarmac often have to be dug up by the police using drills.

The disruptive tactics of the latest generation have sparked a debate in Germany about the effectiveness of such protests in the fight against climate change. Dozens of activists have been brought to justice in recent weeks over the traffic blockages. Many received fines, while others were sentenced to prison terms of up to five months.

As the climate crisis escalates, activists across Europe are fiercely debating tactics, with some groups appealing to moderates while others take more radical action. Extinction Rebellion, the British-founded band that gained notoriety through eye-catching stunts, has changed direction.

In April 2019 the group staged a series of protests in London which saw over 1,000 people arrested, while last April they staged another protest in central London where no one was detained. Organizers said they wanted to focus on “presence rather than arrest and relationships rather than roadblocks”.

Karla Adam in London contributed to this report.


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