Attack on Nuklearia members during climate strike of Fridays for Future in Berlin

German version on

Nuklearia was present at the climate strike on the Friday before the german Bundestag elections, 24th september 2021, whether in Cologne, Frankfurt, Munich or Kiel. Unfortunately, two of our members were victims of a violent attack in Berlin.

“Don’t get beaten up,” a passerby advised me tongue-in-cheek the day before the big climate strike. I had just printed my new climate sign in a copy store in Prenzlauer Berg. It shows all climate-friendly energy sources side by side: solar, wind, water and nuclear power. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, we need to expand everything we can in order to meet the Paris climate targets.

Motif of my climate sign

On the morning of the climate strike in front of the main station in Berlin, I and 7 other members of the Nuklearia joke about it. Who would beat up a climate activist during a climate strike? All of us are for climate protection. Each of us brought signs with messages like “Climate Crisis – Nuclear Power”, “Follow the Science” or “Nuclear Power against Climate Change”.

The fear of violence proves to be unfounded for the time being. On the contrary, we get a lot of thumbs up. A schoolboy has made his own “Nuclear power, yes please” sign and joins us. A couple also joins us and lets us give them a sign. Some teenagers ask what nuclear power even is. Other participants of the demo have more questions about nuclear power or want to discuss it. A reporter from the NZZ briefly interviews one of us. For the most part, however, we simply get lost in the crowd.

Before the climate strike

No wonder, tens of thousands of people have gathered in front of the Bundestag. The police closes the square as even more climate activists arrive. Many school children have come, but also adults of all ages. We are impressed by what Fridays for Future has mobilized here. And it gives us hope that so many people care about climate protection as much as us.

We happen to meet a group from the Humanist Party in the crowd and join them. Like us, the Humanists advocate climate protection that is open to technology and without prejudice. They also advocate extending the operating lives of our nuclear power plants. We listen together to the welcoming speech and a musical interlude. When finally the big protest march begins, we separate from the humanists. We prefer to stay near the stage where Greta Thunberg will speak later.

With the humanists and others

As the march passes us, we have many nice conversations. But there are also the first less nice encounters with thumbs down or “nuclear power, no thanks” shouts from the crowd. An older lady even accuses us of having come to the wrong protest. When asked if this is not a climate strike, she and her companion shake their heads wordlessly. Most interactions, however, remain at least neutral, if not friendly or interested.

I have a long discussion with two young men about the German nuclear waste repositories Morsleben and Schacht Konrad. One of them remains skeptical, but the other finally asks for a book recommendation. I advise him to go for the classic: David MacKay’s “Sustainable Energy Production – Without the Hot Air”. Two schoolgirls also ask questions. I get bogged down in answering them. The question about the “final solution” for nuclear waste gets me off track. I guess they don’t know the history of this German “unword” yet. Nor, unfortunately, the principle of a deep geological repository.

Greta speaking on stage

At last the time has come, Greta Thunberg is on stage. The well-known climate activist and founder of Fridays for Future is accusing Germany of being one of the world’s biggest CO₂ emitters. She’s right! In the first half of 2021, 27% of electricity still came from burning coal because of our unsuccessful energy transition. In the next two years, the coal share will rise to as much as 40% due to the early nuclear phase-out. Greta does not talk about the possible lifetime extension of our 6 nuclear power plants, although this is the most effective climate protection measure in Germany. Her home country, Sweden, generates almost half of its electricity from nuclear power and has much lower emissions than Germany.

When Greta starts talking, everyone flocks toward the stage. We are split into two groups by the crowd. I don’t think anything of it, but as a smaller group we probably offer more attack surface. Two men approach from behind and wordlessly try to cover our signs. When I ask them what this is all about, one of them answers that he feels attacked. Wait a minute: He attacks us and feels attacked himself? I show him my sign with the four climate-friendly technologies next to each other, and after a short discussion he and his silent companion move away. All is well. You can even talk with militant opponents of nuclear power.

The sign was still whole

The men are replaced by two young women. One of them stands threateningly in front of our Paola. Two heads taller, she yells and pulls threateningly on Paola’s mouth guard. As I am able to draw her attention to me, she lets go, but continues to threaten with violence. Before anything can happen, her companion pulls her back into the crowd from which the two had come. Was she serious about the violence? We all share a common goal, don’t we?

I don’t have to wait long for an answer. Our second group has reappeared. Something is not right. Britta is as quiet as she’s ever been. Julien is totally agitated. Apparently, someone physically attacked Britta in the crowd. Her sign was destroyed. Julien’s sign was stolen in the scuffle. Nothing happened to either of them, but they seem shocked.

The Video. What happened from Brittas point of view is written in the end of the article

A larger group has surrounded us. They immediately set about covering our remaining signs. A FFF-marshal also arrives. He kindly suggests us to leave because he can’t protect us from these aggressive troublemakers. We briefly consider calling the police because of the gross disturbance of the demonstration and not least because of the physical attack. Finally, we decide to leave the square in front of the Bundestag peacefully. We don’t want to get into a fight with some nutcases.

We arrive at some snack stands in front of the Brandenburg Gate. We let the shocking experience sink in. Physically, we are unharmed, and the expensive plotted sign can be replaced. However, we are concerned about the fact that there are climate activists who are ready to use violence during a climate strike and who aggressively attack their fellow campaigners. Didn’t we all come here because of the climate crisis? Don’t we have the same goal, climate protection? And what about democracy and freedom of expression?

After the attack

This was an inglorious end to an otherwise great climate strike. Other Nuklearia members in other cities also had mostly positive experiences. The organizer is certainly not to blame for the incident. You can’t choose whether people willing to use violence come to such a demonstration. But it is important for future climate protests that the organizers clearly distance themselves. Violence and hostility within the climate movement are the wrong way!

It is also all the more important that Fridays for Future finally send a clear signal for pragmatic climate protection in the spirit of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Greta tentatively did that in 2019. But she then rowed back in the face of a shitstorm from opponents of nuclear power. And what has happened in the 2.5 years since? We’ve made ridiculous progress on climate protection in Germany. Globally, CO₂ emissions continue to grow.

Together, we are stronger!

Follow the Science!

Everything for the climate!

Brittas perspective in the attack:

Greta Thunberg speaks, I like Greta. She read the IPCC report in 2018 and spoke publicly about nuclear power. Instinctively I follow the general momentum and go after my comrade with the nuclear power coexist sign. I stop to listen, it is Luisa Neubauer who is speaking now. A man shouts at me aggressively, I shout back, a FFF-marshal tells me to calm down. I thank him, it is good that he stays with me.

A woman speaks to me, claiming I am at the wrong protest. I ask her if she knows the IPCC report and that it is pro nuclear power. – No, she says, absolutely not. – Does she not know the international scientific consensus? – That can’t be right, I must be stupid. – I study mathematics, I answer. She remarks there are even intelligent Nazis. From then on there’s more shouting and I repeat stubbornly „IPCC“!

Two, three people try to cover the sign, I turn it back and forth so that the printed front is always visible in one direction. A woman, later a man try to grab the poster, three times it is the same man, I find it unpleasant to have him in the back, he looks at me crazy, his face is all red and he breathes heavily. Dodging is only possible to the front. People are still pushing in this direction from all sides. The faction of the concealers follows me, now a group of teenagers joins in, who heat up the atmosphere with shrill screams.

This is where the scene from the video ensues. I am grabbed from behind. The poster is torn. I look for the attacker. It is a different man than before. He quickly moves away. The teens turn up again and some people celebrate and clap. I collect the remains of the poster and then I realize that my comrade is next. I find him a few steps away, already his poster is torn from the pole. Still, the FFF-marshal is with me. He says he can’t guarantee our safety, but he accompanies us out to the others.

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