Police raid climate activists’ homes over oil refinery protest
Attempted coup by far-right group in Germany
German police foiled an attempted coup by the extreme right on 7th December 2022. More than 30 simultaneous blitzes took place in Germany, as well as in Austria and Italy, and 25 people were arrested. The suspects are part of a far-right group that had been plotting to overthrow the German government and replace it with a “monarchistic order.” Among those detained were a 71-year-old prince, a former MP for the far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), as well as current members of the military and police. Investigators pointed out that the group seems to have ideological ties with the COVID-19-denying Querdenker movement and supporters of the QAnon conspiracy theory. Nancy Faeser, Germany’s interior minister, called the group “enemies of democracy,” specifying it’s as yet unclear how far the group had progressed in their planning. Nevertheless, the police investigation into these events has been among the most extensive in Germany's recent history. The group was also in possession of weapons and arms licences.
Following the attempted coup, Nancy Faeser announced the government’s intention to make it easier for civil servants to be expelled from service due to ties with extremist groups, and to tighten up the requirements for owning weapons, such as introducing more rigorous checks.
German officials condemn Twitter’s move to censor journalists
Representatives of the German government expressed their concerns related to freedom of expression over the decision of billionaire Twitter owner Elon Musk to disable the accounts of journalists critical of the social media company. The German Foreign Ministry tweeted that “there is a problem” with Twitter, and spokespersons of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz declared that the Chancellor's team was closely monitoring the developments, characterising Twitter’s move as “unacceptable”.
Climate activists occupy ghost town to prevent coal mine expansion
In January 2023, clashes occurred between police and around 700 environmental activists occupying Lützerath, a small village in North Rhine-Westphalia, whose residents had been evicted to allow for the expansion of the Garzweiler coal mine. The activists oppose the relocation of the villagers, as well as the energy company RWE’s plan to demolish the town to make way for a lignite extraction site. A number of activists had been residing in Lützerath and resisting eviction for several years, but their ranks were joined by hundreds more at the start of the year, due to the imminent destruction of the village announced by the authorities.
In 2020, Germany made a commitment to phase out coal-fired power generation by 2038 at the latest – however, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and its repercussions on the energy market have led to a change of plans, which now include the construction of a new site in Lützerath. The entrance of the Greens into the German government did not lead to this decision being overturned, disappointing many in the climate and environmental movement. Instead, as a compromise between the Greens’ Economy Minister Robert Habeck and RWE, five other villages that have been partially resettled will be spared from being demolished to make way for the company’s mines, and North Rhine-Westphalia will transition to a coal-free region by 2030.
Police began the eviction on 11th January, encountering fierce opposition from the environmental activists, who built barricades and tried to block the operation by peaceful means. However, the police were quicker than expected in dismantling their resistance and managed a near-complete eviction of the site in a matter of days. Use of excessive force by the police was reported.
Clashing with police officers, hundreds of activists protested the development of a new coal mine in the abandoned village of Lützerath, Germany pic.twitter.com/6nq6ukI6IQ— NowThis (@nowthisnews) January 14, 2023
On 14th January, a protest was organised near the mine and prominent activists, including Greta Thunberg, appeared to show their support for the cause and to condemn the use of force by the police. The Swedish climate activist was among those forcefully removed from the site, and could be seen being carried away by two officers. A spokesperson for the German police force claimed all the activists were released following an identity check.
On 13th January, the Ende Gelände (Last Generation) group broke into the office of Economy Minister Robert Habeck in Flensburg. The group claimed the action on Twitter, expressing their solidarity with the evicted activists and accusing Habeck and the Green Party of being responsible for the eviction.
+++ Regionalbüro von Robert Habeck besetzt! +++— Ende Gelände Flensburg (@EG_Flensburg) January 12, 2023
➡️ Gerade haben wir zusammen mit autonomen Aktivist*innen das Regionalbüro von Habeck, welches gleichzeitig das Parteibüro der Grünen Flensburg ist, am Holm besetzt! @Ende__Gelaende @LuetziBleibt
Bild: Radio Fratz pic.twitter.com/u1ySuIgehJ
Following these events, a petition in the form of a cease-and-desist letter has been launched, addressing heads of state and the CEOs of fossil fuel companies and demanding the immediate halt of all fossil fuel extraction activities and of all lobbying against the green transition.
Several violations of press freedom at Lützerath protest
A number of violations of press freedom were reported during the protests in Lützerath. On 14th January, police assaulted photojournalist Marcus Golejewski and used pepper spray on him, despite the reporter having a press card and being accredited with the Aachen police and RWE. On the same day, a camera crew with the Dutch media company PowNed was attacked by protesters carrying Antifa flags while attempting to report on the eviction.
One journalist was prevented from returning to the protest site by RWE security guards after exiting it to take photos. Similarly, another journalist was blocked at the entrance of the coal mine site by three security guards, even after showing her press accreditation. A very similar experience was reported to the police by a third journalist as well.
Climate activists glue themselves to runways and highways
On 8th December 2022 protesters from Last Generation Germany glued themselves to the tarmac at Munich airport, causing the closure of one of the airport’s two main runways for around 45 minutes. Protesters were eventually removed by security and taken into custody, and flights returned to normal. A similar action was attempted at Berlin’s Brandenburg airport on the same day, but the activists were intercepted before being able to carry it out.
A few days later, on 12th December, climate activists from the same group glued themselves to key motorway access roads in the German capital. The action was carried out in the morning and traffic flow was restored by the afternoon after police intervened. In response, Berlin police called for a disproportionate 7 days’ detention as punishment for the protesters. This approach follows a growing trend of police and politicians asking for stricter measures to be taken against protesters practising civil disobedience to draw policymakers’ attention to the urgency of enacting a green transition.
German police raid climate activists’ homes, accuse them of “forming a criminal organisation”
On 13th December 2022, German police conducted a raid on the homes of 11 Last Generation activists in relation to their acts of civil disobedience calling attention to the climate crisis. Representatives from the prosecutor’s office stated the activists whose houses were raided are being investigated on suspicion of “disrupting public order” and “forming a criminal organisation.” All the targeted activists had participated in protests around the closure of the PCK Schwedt oil refinery, with oil flows to the plant being cut at one point during their action. During the raids, police confiscated the activists’ laptops and mobile phones. A spokeswoman for Last Generation, Carla Hinrichs, stated the raids were “frightening”, but that the activists won’t be dissuaded from continuing their activities as planned.
The investigation into the criminal organisation opens every door for the authorities to monitor us and it is precisely these possibilities that are usually the goal. Prosecutions are rare. The conviction rate is low. But should a court decide to imprison us peaceful people, we will face the consequences. We stand by everything we do with our names and faces. We know what we're doing. We know why. - Carla Hinrichs, Last Generation Germany
Statement zu #Hausdurchsuchung & #KriminelleVereinigung 🧵:— Carla Hinrichs - Widerstand oder Katastrophe (@carla_hinrichs_) December 13, 2022
Es ist sechs Uhr morgens und uniformierte Beamte laufen mit Taschenlampen ums Haus. Gleichzeitig brechen Beamte das Schloss der Wohnung einer alten Frau auf, die sich nicht traut, so früh morgens die Tür zu öffnen.(1/17)
Police search the offices of left-wing broadcaster
On 17th January 2023, police searched the premises of independent left-wing broadcaster "Radio Dreyeckland", including the private offices of two of the outlet’s editors. Laptops and data carriers were taken away by the investigators, who are investigating Radio Dreyeckland on suspicion that the broadcaster is linked to the left-wing organisation "Indymedia" and their website "Linksunten Indymedia", which was banned in 2017 by the Federal Ministry of the Interior.
Armed man attacks local radio offices
On 10th December 2022, an armed man attempted to access the offices of Radio Dresden in Ammonhof, without success. The man shot in a hole in the door of the building where the office is located, but did not hit any employees, who managed to escape through another exit. The man is accused of killing his mother and an elderly passerby before targeting the local broadcaster’s premises. After his attack on Radio Dresden, he took two people hostage in the Altmarkt Galerie, where he was shot dead by police who freed the hostages unharmed.