Infiltration: graffiti in Lützerath: how left-wing extremists harm the climate movement

"Shoot the cops in the testicles" is written in black and red letters on a house wall.

Infiltration: graffiti in Lützerath: how left-wing extremists harm the climate movement

"Shoot the cops in the testicles" is written in black and red letters on a house wall. After the climate protests, graffiti of this kind are the last thing left from the climate protest in Lützerath. A protest that was actually committed to civil disobedience and then escalated violently. Actually, thousands of activists wanted to save the uninhabited village on the edge of Garzweiler - with sit-ins, maybe one or the other unruly exit.

But it wasn't that peaceful after all. The activists rebelled. Right or wrong depends on one's position in the climate debate. In any case, the fact that pyrotechnics and stones flew against the officials in the name of the climate does not match the peaceful snapshots in which Thunberg and Neubauer were captured. It is unlikely that the images can hide the violent clashes between police officers and activists. The protesters themselves have taken care of this with their sometimes aggressive legacies on the walls and walls.

"You may jail the revolutionary, but you won't jail the revolution" ("You may jail the revolutionaries, but not the revolution") reads a confident, if comparatively harmless, message on a wall in an empty house.

On the other hand, legacies like these throw a completely different light on the climate protests: "A cobblestone still fits between the bull helmet and the nasal bone", "German blood on German soil" or "Fight the white race climate camps". The slogans seem anything but peace-loving, the connection to climate protection remains unclear.

The FDP MP Konstantin Kuhle fears that legitimate climate protection will drift into "social marginalization". In the surrounding villages of Lützerath, the residents are afraid of the apparently violent demonstrators. And in Lusatia to the south, what happened in Lützerath cannot be understood. There, activists and coal workers sit down together at a table and consider how things can continue after 2030. Without strife, violence and intimidation.

The riots in Lützerath give the SPD-led Federal Ministry of the Interior food for thought. Nancy Faser had repeatedly warned against left-wing radicalization. The climate activists are not to blame. The pressure comes from outside, from the left-wing extremist scene, which is trying to "influence climate protection groups, make them receptive to their goals, radicalize social protest and delegitimize the state and its institutions," a ministry spokeswoman recently told the "Handelsblatt ". They would use the movement "for their anti-constitutional aspirations."

Armin Pfahl-Traughber from the Federal University of Applied Sciences and the University of Bonn has been publishing the yearbook "Extremism and Terrorism Research" since 2006. He sees that small orthodox communist parties in particular want to influence the climate movement politically. These include the "Marxist-Leninist Party of Germany", the "German Communist Party" and the "Interventionist Left" (IL).

In an "interim status paper," the IL writes that it is always "looking for new alliances that deepen ruptures." However, the partners should only serve the political interests of the party. So they form the tool to expand the social influence of the IL. In addition, the association writes explicitly that it wants to radicalize with actions.

In the document, the climate plays only a minor role. It's actually about a system change, writes Pfahl-Traughber. Slogans such as "System Change, not Climate Change" speak in favor of this. Those behind it see capitalism as an enemy that needs to be abolished. In this way, the constitutional state can be overcome and, as a side effect, the climate can be saved. "Only this special interpretation in combination with a political consequence leads to an extremist objective," writes the researcher.

The best example is the Ende Gelände group, which was founded by the IL. In order to promote their own influence on protest movements, extremists founded so-called front organizations that specialize in one topic. The "Welt" meanwhile reported on internal chats of the group Last Generation, in which the activists are called to left-wing extremism. "We're trying to expand the spectrum of activism! Don't become left-wing extremists! (i.e. externally - internally gladly ;))", it says, for example.

Nevertheless, constitutional protection officers look calmly at the eco-revolutionaries. Because Germany's basic democratic order is not at stake. The President of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Thomas Haldenwang, does not deny that left-wing extremists have infiltrated the movement. However, he currently does not see any "evidence of a threat".

Climate and Economics Minister Robert Habeck called on climate activists to moderate themselves. "It is unacceptable how police officers are denigrated across the board and how some activists call for a 'world without police'," he told the "taz". The climate movement should distance itself "crystal clear" from violent protests.

For Luisa Neubauer, Fridays for Future is a "consistently democratic movement". The climate protection activist accused the German interior ministers of "criminalizing" the movement. She is backed by Linke boss Janine Wissler. She is not worried about a "supposed radicalization of the climate protection movement", but about "the increasing radicalization of climate change".

Extremism researcher Pfahl-Taughber also believes that the influence of left-wing extremists on the climate movement is limited. "Overall, the extremists are minorities, but their activities and views convey a negative public image of the protest movement." At the same time, however, he calls for a greater awareness of the problem in the movement. The demands for a more consistent climate policy should not be the overriding priority. "This makes it easier for extremists, who like to respond to relevant criticism with accusations of division, to gain influence."

Demands for civil disobedience and "system change" can quickly turn against democracy and the rule of law. The scientist criticizes that awareness of this is "underdeveloped" in the climate movement. That could harm the protests.

And already is. According to an NDR survey of 12,800 people, the majority reject the protest actions of the last generation. In a Civey survey for the "Augsburger Allgemeine", 81 percent of those questioned described the actions of the last generation as wrong.

For many, what will remain of Lützerath, in addition to a brown hole, will remain what also remained of the Hambach Forest and the G20 protest: images of riots and violence and radical demands for a system change. Meanwhile, the climate activists have a lot of trouble with the RWE group. Because he is now demanding compensation. According to RWE, however, it is not yet possible to quantify how high the claims could be. There is still no final damage assessment for the eviction. However, the demonstrators must be prepared for civil legal action.

At least that would be nothing new. Numerous activists have already had to answer to various courts for sticking actions and blockades. In the federal capital alone, around 1,000 criminal charges were filed against members of the Last Generation group. Nationwide there should be over 2500.

Sources: "Zeit", "FAZ", "Der Spiegel", NDR, Federal Agency for Civic Education, with material from DPA and AFP