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Fridays for Future: First big climate protection rally since the outbreak of the corona pandemic

Fridays for Future : First big climate protection rally since the outbreak of the corona pandemic

Around 2,500 people made their way through Bonn city center on Friday, taking part in a Fridays for Future demonstration. Afterwards, the Extinction Rebellion movement used a sitting blockade at the Koblenz Gate to call attention to the climate problem.

It was a long pause for the Fridays for Future movement: For months, they shifted their activities to the internet, and now, for the first time since the outbreak of the corona pandemic, they turned out in large numbers to demonstrate in city centers. Some 2,500 demonstrators met in the morning at the Hofgarten in Bonn, and then marched for around two kilometers.

"The cooperation with the city went quite well this time. With the help of a lawyer, we were able to get the city to allow slogans to be shouted again during the demonstration," explained Fridays spokeswoman Franzi Bassenge. Before the march, there were 45 minutes of speeches. The Bonn example showed how diverse the movement had become. Since the then 15-year-old Greta Thunberg first refused to attend school in protest on August 20, 2018, the movement has grown from a pure student initiative to include a collection of various interest groups. Members of Attac, Extinction Rebellion, LGBT and Sea-Watch could all be found at the Hofgarten.

Ver.di representatives also took part in climate demo

While the movement initially neglected country-specific social aspects of the required energy system transformation, it is now incorporating trends that also focus on these aspects. The participation of Verdi representatives in the demonstration is evidence of this. "The fact that Ver.di is dealing with the climate problem was overdue. Last year, our then chairman Frank Bsirske finally put this on the agenda," said Andreas Rausch, the trade union secretary present at the demonstration. "We want to take up the impulses set by FFF. An expansion of renewable energies and public transport, including decent pay for bus and train drivers, is urgently needed," said Rausch.

Members of the Sea-Watch Civil Sea Rescue Association, on the other hand, assessed the global impact of the impending climate catastrophe. "The global south has to struggle most with the consequences of warming, to which the people there have contributed the least. We have to be prepared for a large wave of climate refugees," said a member of the association.

Many people of all of different ages joined the rally. Among them was a woman with a small child in her arms, trying to keep her active daughter from pulling the mask off her nose. "She does not yet know what it is all about, but I am here for her today," said the young mother. Meanwhile, a few meters further on, two ladies from the association "Omas Gegen Rechts" (“Grandmas against the right wing”) criticized the tendency of right wing extremists to deny the climate problem.

People encouraged to vote in run-off election

Organizers also called on those gathered to vote in the run-off election this coming Sunday but they did not speak in support of a particular candidate. Current Lord Mayor Ashok Sridharan(CDU) faces Bündnis 90/Green candidate Katja Dörner in the second round of voting. Among some participants, however, there was a noticeable tendency in how they planned to vote. Malte Kleinwort of "Parents for Future" felt "new hope" at the municipal level in view of the "new majority situation in the city council". He was "extremely disappointed" by the current Lord Mayor Ashok Sridharan. "Mr. Sridharan has declared a climate emergency, but has not taken any action. I don't feel anything of a Verkehrswende (transformation to more sustainable transportation methods) in Bonn," said Kleinwort. The Fridays activist Franziska Rau gave a similar assessment. "We are here because we are angry and disappointed by our government and all governments," said the Bonn student. "But there is still hope," she added.

The event was officially concluded at 1 pm after a final rally in front of the Kunstmuseum (Art Museum). The organizers were satisfied with the way the event went and the number of participants. "Discipline regarding social distancing and masks was very good. We hoped for a four-digit number of participants. We have reached that number," said Bassenge.

Extinction Rebellion set up blockade on Adenauerallee

While the demonstration with its estimated 2,500 participants was drawing to a close at the Hofgarten, about 15 people from the ranks of Extinction Rebellion went to the Adenauerallee for a blockade. With the words "Excuse me, but this is an emergency," Niko Froitzheim initiated the blockade, which for a short time caused major traffic disruptions along the B 9. Because it was a spontaneous initiative that had not been agreed upon in advance, it was dissolved by the police shortly afterwards.

As a result, the demonstrators decided to carry out a so-called "Swarming" at the Koblenz Gate. Using this technique, the group sent out their message about climate change while the stoplight was on red. The police, who were on the scene in large numbers, allowed this to happen a couple of times. Both the police and the protestors were willing to compromise. "Everything is still within reason," said a police officer, while demonstrators distributed leaflets to the drivers. The initially planned sit-in blockade was then dropped. In response to an inquiry, the organizers of the Fridays For Future demonstration said they had not agreed to the action.

"The officers assessed the situation on site and determined that there was no danger or emergency situation," said a police spokesperson. They explained the rules to the protestors, who then adhered to the police instructions. Otherwise, charges could have been filed, for endangering road traffic for example.

(Orig. text: Jakub Drogowski, Rüdiger Franz ; Translation: ck)