The increasing number of climate protests over the past months, mainly consisting of the vandalization of classical artworks in museums and roadblocks, has led to demands for stricter legal consequences for climate activists.
The German CDU, currently leading the opposition in the German parliament, proposed the introduction of a minimum prison sentence for activists partaking in street blockades that prevent police, ambulance, and fire trucks from passing. Those activists considered likely to be repeat offenders should also be allowed to be locked up preventively. Those who damage or destroy cultural goods should be punished by a minimum prison sentence, rather than penalized by the fine that is currently in place.
This proposal, however, has not been met with approval by the reigning traffic light coalition. The general secretary of the FDP, Bijan Djir-Sarai, admitted being “very worried” about the “continuous radicalization of certain parts of the climate movement,” but stressed that there were already plenty of legal means to deal with situations in which “the limits of peaceful protest are crossed.” This notion was supported by the legal spokeswoman of the parliamentary faction of the SPD, Sonja Eichwede. She, too, worried about a “further radicalization” of activists, but then conceded that there were plenty of legal possibilities to deal with the situation. For her, the call of the CDU was an act of “populism.”
Alexander Dobrindt of the CSU, the Bavarian union partner of the CDU, had previously demanded that “climate protest must not be a license to commit crimes.” For Dobrindt, harsher punishments were needed to avoid “a further radicalization of parts of the climate movement” and to “deter imitators.”
Stefan Gelbhaar of the Greens, however, called Dobrindt’s proposal “stupid and dangerous.” According to Gelbhaar, the law provides already “significant sentences for unauthorized demonstrations,” and mocked: “Apparently the CDU/CSU doesn’t even know the legal provisions.”
The discussion on increased punishments against climate activists has gained traction in Germany after a cyclist died in a car accident in Berlin and emergency services were held up by climate protesters that had glued themselves to a road. The activists of the ‘Last Generation’ have since portrayed themselves as victims of a media campaign directed against them, who nevertheless remain undeterred. On the contrary, they renewed their determination to expand their climate protests to “all areas affected by the climate catastrophe.”