Augsburg: the tone between climate activists and the city is getting sharper – Bavaria

Fridays for Future in Augsburg held a school strike for the first time in a long time on Friday. About 150 participants met on the town hall square – and not on the hardly frequented square behind the town hall. This is a crucial difference, because the city’s public order office had tried to move the demonstration at short notice, which a court finally classified as an unreasonable interference with freedom of assembly and prohibited it. “After winning so many court cases, we’re already wondering why the city of Augsburg is still writing obviously unlawful notices of assembly,” activist Charlotte Lauter said in a press release. Fridays for Future now reserves the right to take further legal action against the municipal regulatory office.

The tone between the climate activists and the city of Augsburg, but also between the police and the public prosecutor’s office, is becoming rougher. The climate camp was one of the first in Germany, it was a role model for many others. The town hall coalition of the CSU and the Greens ran into an ongoing PR disaster when they tried to clear the camp two years ago after a few days. In the meantime, the Bavarian administrative court has given the municipal lawyers a proper pat on the back for the decision at the time. Since then, Mayor Eva Weber (CSU) has often criticized the camp and called on the demonstrators to work on climate policy instead of just publicly opposing it. In return, the activists go on the offensive, with more and more high-profile actions that are also relevant under criminal law. They recently received nationwide attention for their complaint about a house search of a fellow campaigner who is said to have insulted an AfD politician. And on the Friday before the school strike, they complained that activists Ingo Blechschmidt and Janika Pondorf were being searched. The accusation of the climate camp activists: “It is obviously about the fact that unpopular criticism of politics should be criminalized.”

The police were at the door of climate activist Janika Pondorf to search the house. At that time she was just 15 years old. The accusation against her was not confirmed.

(Photo: Florian Fuchs)

Pondorf was 15 years old at the time of the search two years ago. Because of a post-traumatic stress disorder, she was in inpatient juvenile psychiatric treatment for a long time after the police action, and she made a corresponding certificate public. The activists criticize the house searches at Blechschmidt and Pondorf as “disproportionate and excessive”. The reason for the police was a video of a Greenpeace action on Black Friday, which showed activists spraying consumerism on shop windows. Pondorf has the physique of a woman in the video, wearing a khaki parka – the 15-year-old also wore such an article of clothing. The problem: Neither Blechschmidt nor Pondorf were ever with Greenpeace, nor were they part of the action – the investigations have now been closed. For Blechschmidt, this is an indication that there is a “continuous and systematic push” against climate activists in Augsburg. Especially since further house searches at other activists are on record and, according to Blechschmidt, almost all procedures have already been discontinued.

The police did not want to be accused of being disproportionate during the first discussion about a house search a few weeks ago. The public prosecutor’s office in Augsburg also firmly rejects any systematic advances against climate activists. The house search at the 15-year-old Pondorf was subsequently checked by a court and found to be in order. Senior public prosecutor Andreas Dobler says that house searches could be initiated simply by witness statements, i.e. by fewer clues than in this case. “That’s the normal course of events in a constitutional state.”

The member of parliament Cemal Bozoglu from the Greens says that a public prosecutor’s office must investigate property damage such as graffiti on shop windows. “These are criminal offences, and there may be house searches.” He therefore differentiates the case from the other house searches for insult: The accused only shared a link at the time, with a real name. “There is no longer any need for evidence from a house search that he did it.” Bozoglu thinks the police and prosecutors overreacted to this, which is why he made an inquiry to the Ministry of Justice, which SZ has received. Targeted action against climate campers is rejected. But Bozoglu also warns the climate campers: Their goals are honorable, but they should slowly reconsider the way they protest. “A group cannot dictate its beliefs. Everyone must adhere to democratic processes and try to change majorities accordingly.”

In this he agrees with the member of the Bundestag and Augsburg CSU chairman Volker Ullrich, who firmly rejects the accusations of climate campers against the judiciary and the CSU-led city politics. He thinks that the climate camp is now overshooting the target with its actions and is moving away from its self-declared purpose of drawing attention to the climate issue. He considers the attention paid to the activists to be excessive anyway: “We’re certainly not making the climate camp the focus of our political actions and assessments.”

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