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When Urgency Clashes with Indifference: A Bystander's Tale of Climate Protesters' Brave Battle

In Berlin's streets, climate protesters face violent opposition, and witnessing their bravery brings to light an ethical dilemma. The urgency of two opposing sides creates a difficult decision, but it's not just about people; it's about the fight for the planet. This blog offers a sobering account of the climate protests in Berlin and sheds light on the hatred that the cause encounters.

2 May 2023, Adenauer-platz, Berlin

Climate Protesters during their sit-in at Adenauerplatz, Berlin on May 2, 2023 | Photo Credit: Letzte Generation

I had meticulously planned my day to ensure that I would arrive early for my interview at the Israeli Embassy in Berlin. With an early start, I boarded the U-Bahn to Adenauerplatz, and from there I had to take the number 110 bus to my destination. But right outside the metro station, there were five people wearing saffron over-vests and sitting at the intersection (road) with a banner that read “Letzte Generation Vor Den Kipppunkten” which (in English) translates to "Last Generation Before the Tipping Points". They had effectively halted all traffic.

As I looked closer, I witnessed a man viciously striking a woman protestor on the thigh. Another woman who was watching quickly intervened to defend the protester, but the man lashed out at her, spewing bullying, and hateful remarks. In addition, an older woman was berating the younger protesters, with one young protestor having her hand pinned to her face.

As if that wasn't enough, another man then proceeded to approach the protesters with his phone camera, taking close-up photographs while spitting on each and every one of them. When a woman expressed her displeasure with his actions, he too began to verbally abuse her, just like the previous man.

I couldn't stand this, not the spitting, at least. I decided to intervene and asked him to delete all of his photos. In response, he not only refused but also proceeded to push me onto the road and said he will fuck my immigrant mother.

There were more than 60-70 people watching this.

Those protesters were young, old, men, and women. They were beaten. They were spat on. They were abused - physically and verbally. Their consent was violated throughout their sit-in.

They, despite the cruel treatment, remained humble and forgiving, refusing to be intimidated.

As I bore witness to this, I wished I could have expressed my admiration for their bravery and let them know how proud I was of their efforts. Sadly, I lacked the courage to do so myself.

Climate Protesters during their sit-in at Adenauerplatz, Berlin on May 2, 2023 | Photo Credit: Pius Fozan

This was the second time I had seen climate protesters gluing their hands to the road. I hadn't seen these protests before that. I had only read about them in the news. The first time I saw it, was in Vienna on one of the Wednesday mornings in February (2023) when I had an early morning class, and I was already running late.

Contrary to what I saw in Berlin, the Viennese people were not thrashing and spitting on protesters. The police were not aggressive. The police focused on their job: to ensure law and order. They diverted the traffic while nurses and police officers worked to remove the glue. There were two choppers hovering over for any medical emergency.

Berlin, on the other hand, a city that very well knows what hate can do, saw its protestors being beaten and insulted. The protestors were lucky to have escaped life-threatening attacks.

It is truly heart-wrenching. At first, I assumed the incident I witnessed was an isolated one. However, upon further investigation of Letzte Generation's Twitter page, it is clear that such abuse is a common occurrence. Countless images and videos document protesters being subjected to physical violence, dragging, and verbal abuse at the hands of enraged individuals.

Climate Protesters during their sit-in at Adenauerplatz, Berlin on May 2, 2023 | Photo Credit: Letzte Generation

As I contemplated my own nerves and anxiety in anticipation of my interview at a high-profile institution, I realized how different the protestors' sense of urgency was.

I understand that all those people in cars, bikes, and buses stuck in the traffic were going about their jobs, their appointments, and perhaps, to some of the most important events of their lives. Protests like these create inconvenience for them. And I understand that.

But ask the protesters why are they using these methods of protest. Do they not have other things to do in their lives? Do they not have a job or for the young protester to go to school or university? Do they not have 'other urgent' work?

People depending on where they stand see the idea of urgency differently. For people stuck in the traffic, their jobs and appointments were very urgent. For climate protesters, as their name goes, it's the last generation of people who would have the opportunity to do something about the dying planet and push for government action. For them, the stakes are much higher.

I am disheartened and sad. I am sad that I couldn't do much to stop those abusers. I was just another bystander, watching in complicity. I am sad that Berlin, if not all of Berlin, some, have no respect for human life and have the audacity to kick and spit on those whose views differ from their own. This is not democracy. This is not a sign of civilized people. It is hateful and hurtful.

In closing, I would encourage anyone interested to check out the Twitter account of "Last Generation" to learn more about their vital work.


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