Climate protest: Fridays for Future criticizes the last generation

Before the next wave of protests by the climate group Last Generation next week, the Fridays for Future movement is clearly keeping its distance.

Climate protest: Fridays for Future criticizes the last generation

Before the next wave of protests by the climate group Last Generation next week, the Fridays for Future movement is clearly keeping its distance. "The climate crisis needs solutions for society as a whole, and we can only find and fight for them together and not by pitting people against each other in everyday life," said spokeswoman Annika Rittmann of the German Press Agency. Clear criticism also came from the Greens in the Bundestag.

"With their elitist and self-righteous protest, the last generation is doing the opposite of what we need in the current situation, namely a broad movement in society for consistent climate protection policy," said the parliamentary director of the Greens, Irene Mihalic, of the dpa. One should "not alienate people with actions that make the already difficult everyday life even more difficult".

The last generation has been blocking traffic in German cities since the beginning of 2022, earning the anger of motorists. She has announced massive disruptions in Berlin for the coming week. Among other things, it demands a speed limit of 100 km/h on the motorway and a permanent 9-euro ticket for buses and trains. The climate group Extinction Rebellion, abbreviated XR, is already planning protests with civil disobedience in the capital this week.

Lots of rejection from the public

Polls show that many citizens reject these forms of protest. In November, four out of five respondents to a Civey study said actions like road blockades do more harm than good to climate protection.

Fridays for Future has always relied on other forms of protest for good reason, said spokeswoman Rittmann. The blockades of the last generation in Hamburg have recently affected commuters in particular, "who can neither afford to live in Hamburg's city center nor use public transport due to the lack of expansion. Something similar is to be feared in Berlin."

Fridays for Future is inspired by Swede Greta Thunberg's "school strike" and regularly organizes large demonstrations. The Last Generation group is much smaller but gets a lot of attention. The activists often get stuck, not only on the streets, but also in museums or sports stadiums.

From the point of view of the Berlin protest researcher Dieter Rucht, it is currently difficult to assess whether disruptive actions and blockades are really damaging to the climate issue. The Fridays for Future demonstrations were often well received. "But they didn't build up any real pressure," Rucht told the dpa. When things get concrete and cost money, as is the case now with the replacement of heating systems, people would be hesitant. A counter-movement like the yellow vests is not to be expected either, which goes back to specifically French conditions.

Successful in the long run?

Rucht's assessment of the impact of the last generation: "In the short term, it tends to harden the discourse. In the long term, it sharpens positions and forces people to make a commitment. I suspect that this, together with the foreseeable effects of the climate problem, will tend to influence the mood in favor of stricter climate measures ."

The Pace study by the University of Erfurt suggests that the disruptive maneuvers of the last generation could ultimately also benefit Fridays for Future. "Fridays for Future was rated as less radical and more supported than the last generation," write the Pace researchers in their most recent survey of around 1,000 people.

51 percent found Fridays for Future's "global climate strike" on March 3 "radical". 64 percent supported the action anyway. The fact that the last generation poured black paint on the Basic Law monument in Berlin on March 5 was called "radical" by 79 percent. Only 24 percent supported this.

Pause before the next protest phase

The last generation could not initially be reached for a reaction to the criticism. An automatic e-mail reply said: "Unfortunately, we have to inform you that we are taking a break until April 12 to gather strength for the upcoming protest phase."

Extinction Rebellion is an organizationally separate group that also uses forms of protest of civil disobedience and pursues similar goals, such as a climate or social council chosen by lot. Spokesman Florian Zander told the dpa: "Civil disobedience should draw attention to an issue, and a lot of attention has been drawn."

With “ironic, visually powerful, performative” actions in Berlin from Thursday to Sunday, XR primarily wants to draw attention to the extinction of species, said Zander. "We try to pick people up." Diversity of protests is necessary, and there is understanding for that. The "disturbing element" should stimulate thought. This should come into play when activists with bicycles demonstrate on the Berlin city highway on Saturday in the Easter return journey.