Friday, September 29, 2023
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German police raid homes of climate activists

Tensions over climate action reached a new high after police raided homes and buildings connected to a disruptive protest group called Last Generation. The protesters have angered many Germans by blocking city roads in recent weeks.

(CN) — Calling a climate protest movement a criminal organization, German police on Wednesday raided the homes of protesters affiliated with Last Generation, a group behind disruptive headline-grabbing demonstrations in Germany and elsewhere in Europe.

Early morning raids took place across Germany with prosecutors in Munich saying they are probing the group as a possible criminal organization. Police searched homes and buildings for evidence but made no arrests, according to media reports. Seven people between the ages of 22 and 38 were called suspects. The group's website and two accounts were also frozen.

The seven suspects are accused of organizing a campaign to collect at least 1.4 million euros (about $1.5 million) to finance “further criminal acts.”

Police and prosecutors said the raids sought to establish Last Generation's membership structure. Two of the suspects were also accused of seeking to sabotage an oil pipeline running across the Alps from the Italian coast at Trieste to the Bavarian city of Ingolstadt last year.

The raids sparked controversy with the protest group calling the searches unconstitutional. Last Generation advocates peaceful, albeit disruptive, protests and civil disobedience.

In recent weeks, the group has become the focus of an intense culture war with conservatives demanding jail sentences for its members and those on the left warning of an authoritarian crackdown.

Wednesday's raids add to the already tense atmosphere in Germany over climate goals. The coalition government is on rocky ground with the Greens and pro-business Free Democrats fiercely clashing over the phaseout of combustion car engines, requirements for households to install expensive heat pumps and other green-friendly measures.

The Greens and Free Democrats have seen their support plummet in recent months as inflation soars and German industry slows in the wake of the Ukraine war and shutoff of cheap Russian energy. In response, the German government has begun building new liquefied natural gas ports to import more gas from abroad and put the brakes on its green agenda, angering environmentalists.

Police officers use hammers and chisels to remove a climate activist who glued himself to a road in Berlin, Germany, on Monday, May 22, 2023. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Meanwhile, Last Generation has garnered headlines and sparked debate as its members carry out a series of protests to block traffic in German cities by gluing their hands to the pavement.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, a Social Democrat, called the protests “completely crazy.” Scholz is trying to calm the increasingly difficult relations between the Greens and Free Democrats.

A month ago, Last Generation members caused major traffic jams in Berlin by blocking about a dozen streets, often by gluing their hands to the pavement. Police removed one protester's hands by drilling a portion of a road.

The Berlin protest provoked the anger of many drivers and videos captured tense moments as drivers dragged demonstrators out of their way. One man physically attacked protesters sitting on a street and he had to be restrained by police.

Last Generation has held protests at coal and energy companies, camped outside the Bundestag, held hunger strikes and sought to stop the expansion of coal mining and LNG projects. Its members have also been linked the defacing of famous works of art, including throwing mashed potatoes against glass protecting a painting by Claude Monet at a museum in Potsdam.

Last Generation members were pivotal in attempts to block the expansion of a coal mine in western German at a village called Lutzerath. Those major protests culminated in January when police broke up the blockade, which included the arrest of Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg.

Courthouse News reporter Cain Burdeau is based in the European Union.

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Categories / Criminal, Environment, Government, International

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