Lina Eichler almost missed her big performance. The member of the climate group “Uprising of the Last Generation” was supposed to take part in a discussion round of the newspaper “taz” at the end of April. Three days before the event, however, the 19-year-old was arrested by police officers in Schwedt, Brandenburg. Eichler had turned off the safety valve of an oil pipeline there and chained himself to the system to protest against the continued operation of “fossil infrastructure”. A judge ordered her to be held in custody for five nights.
Ultimately, Eichler was released in time. The court responsible ruled that the preventive detention imposed on them was only justified if the life and limb of third parties was endangered.
The incident shows the difficult balancing act in the actions of the security authorities against radical climate protectionists. By the end of April, the “last generation uprising” counted 104 cases in which members of the group had been arrested and held in police custody for more than one night. This was announced by the spokeswoman for the climate group, Carla Hinrichs, WELT AM SONNTAG. In Hesse, there were 31 cases in which activists even stayed behind bars for five nights.
A judge-ordered preventive detention may last four days in some federal states, 14 in others, and up to two months in Bavaria. It is ordered to prevent further crimes by the activists, which have often already been publicly announced.
“Last Generation” spokeswoman Hinrichs says that one notices that the security authorities are reacting increasingly repressively to the protests. The climate politician Lorenz Gösta Beutin, member of the party executive of the left, condemned the tough action of the security authorities. “Long-term detention is a massive encroachment on fundamental freedoms. The climate protest may be uncomfortable for politics, but it is essential for the climate and the future of mankind,” said Beutin.
In some countries – such as North Rhine-Westphalia – the period was recently extended by law to facilitate investigations into terrorists, child molesters, violent criminals and hooligans. The fact that this is now also affecting climate activists also brings criticism to the countries. Even before the new police laws were passed in North Rhine-Westphalia, experts warned that the application would not be limited to fighting terrorism, but would also be directed primarily against the climate movement, Beutin recalls. That is now reality.
In the case of the “last generation”, the figures cannot be checked independently. In general, 74 climate activists ended up in long-term custody in NRW between 2019 and 2021 – ten times as often as right-wing extremists and Islamists in the same period. This emerged in March from the response of the state government of North Rhine-Westphalia to a small request from the Left Group.
The LKA Hessen states that it does not collect any data on so-called hazard prevention processes. The police in Berlin can at least present some figures: since the beginning of the road blockades by the “last generation”, 56 actions have been identified and 180 people have been taken into custody. Of these, twelve people were ordered to be taken into custody. This means they were held longer than the end of the day after they were apprehended.
CDU domestic politician Philipp Amthor welcomes the authorities’ resolute action. Despite the self-declared non-violence, the activists are not entitled to any privileges under police law, “if their actions, viewed in the light of day, nevertheless violate our security laws,” said Amthor.
The state’s monopoly on the use of force should not tolerate any form of vigilantism – not even against things and not through actual coercion towards third parties. The sabotage of pipelines, in which activists of the “last generation” were recently involved, is a “massive and unjustifiable danger,” Amthor said. Deliberately causing damage to property and unauthorized, destabilizing attacks are unacceptable – “especially if they are directed against our infrastructure”.
In addition to disrupting traffic and pipeline operations, actions by the “last generation” have also endangered human life in the past. In April, for example, activists spilled an oil-like liquid on a street in Frankfurt. According to the authorities, four cyclists fell as a result of the action. One of the victims had to be taken to hospital by ambulance.