German leader urges climate activists not to endanger others

AP , Monday 31 Oct 2022

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz urged climate activists Monday to show "creativity'' and avoid endangering others after attacking art works and setting up road blockades that allegedly delayed the arrival of a specialist rescue crew at an accident scene.

Olaf Scholz
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz gives a joint press conference with the chairwoman of the German union association (DGB) and the President of the Confederation of German Employers Associations (BDA) on October 31, 2022 in Berlin. AFP


Germany, like several other countries, has seen a string of high-profile protests in recent months against what activists say is a government failure to properly address the threat of climate change.

Actions by the group Last Generation have included blocking streets, throwing mashed potatoes at a Claude Monet painting at a museum in Potsdam, and an incident Sunday in which two activists glued themselves to a dinosaur display at Berlin's Natural History Museum.

On Monday, the group blocked several roads in Berlin, including a major highway. Fire service spokesman Rolf Erbe said the blockades resulted in officers with special rescue equipment to get stuck in traffic as they rushed to help a seriously injured cyclist who got stuck under a cement mixer.

The crew informed first responders and ``there was no alternative but to use other methods'' to help the woman, he said, without elaborating.

Last Generation said in a statement that it couldn't rule out having caused the traffic jam, though it insisted that it ensures rescue lanes are kept clear during its blockades. It said it hoped the cyclist's condition wasn't made worse as a result of the delayed arrival of rescuers.

Spokesperson Aimee van Baalen said that "the safety of everyone on our roads, also in the future, is a fundamental motivation for our action'' and that protests would be ended as soon as the government acts against a looming "climate collapse.''

Asked about the incident at a previously scheduled news conference, Scholz said: "My appeal can only be that, in all the decisions people make for political demonstrations, they always ensure that they don't contribute to endangering others. And if that is the case here, that is very regrettable.''

"We must accept critical positions and critical protests,'' Scholz added, though he noted that the blockades and art stunts "obviously aren't meeting with very widespread applause, they're not getting mine either.''

"I think there are other ways in which people can expression their opinion, and perhaps a bit of creativity would be useful,'' the chancellor added.

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