The Extinction Rebellion Wave 2020 in Berlin faced special challenges because of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. However, up to 500 activists (according to newspaper articles, police statements, member count of activists channels) from XR Germany, XR Poland, and XR Sweden participated in the Rebellion Wave 2020 with multiple actions including protest marches, speeches, art performances, road blocks, lock-ons, glue-ons, die-ins and nude protests.
My personal contribution to the rebellion wave 2020 were primarily the organisation of the “photo-bombing” action at the Brandenburg Gate, Berlin, on Friday, 2020-10-09 (see below), provision of 4 banners and 3 posters to support protests, and physical support during protest marches and road-blocks.
The competition between XR and the police to hide or expose information about planned protests resulted in a somewhat stricter handling of information for action planning by XR compared to the Rebellion Wave 2019. Many actions were only announced on short notice with 1-2 hours lead time, stating the meeting point with minimal details regarding the action. This made it more challenging for activists to prepare and participate in the actions. For example, different types of equipment are needed depending on whether it is a few hours of protest march (poster or banner), or a whole-day/whole-night road block (posters or banners and sleeping bag, mat, tent, food, water, book, …). To have too little equipment can be frustrating, to have too much equipment can be exhausting. In addition, some actions happened in parallel which were not fully coordinated and led to weak participation for some actions.
Interestingly, there were reports of police misconduct including the use of undercover agents (civilian police, plainclothes police) infiltrating action preparation meetings, which were cancelled for that reason by the activists after their exposure. In addition, there were also reports of unlawful arrests of journalists, confiscation of equipment incl memory cards [see Oct 6, ref 2 below]. The police acted mostly friendly and professionally, however, reports of inadequate use of physical force/violence were made incl. pepper spray, painful joint locks against peaceful, non-violent protesters. As rumour has it, the Berlin police was also supported by police from other Bundesländer like Sachsen-Anhalt, and Sachsen, indicating that even this years limited rebellion wave stretched the resources of the Berlin police.
The train travel worked very well with the help of Centralens Resebutik in Kalmar, which did a fantastic job! The added value of booking through this agency was that they:
- calculated the full costs for the tickets and reservations, which is not trivial in international train travel,
- took into account planned road work
- took into account special conditions during the pandemic, eg a currently obligatory seat reservation on trains through Denmark
The trip Uppsala-Berlin or Berlin-Uppsala was doable in one-day without overnight stay with trains leaving after 6am and arriving before 23:00pm with a travel time between 14 hours and 17 hours and 4 to 7 changes. The return trip with 14 hours and only 4 stops was quite a breeze compared to the 26hour (1 change) bus trip I did in 2019!
- General information provided by Extinction Rebellion Germany
Thursday, 1. Oktober
- I left home in Uppsala on 1. October, 5:45.
- I arrived in my hostel on 1. October, 23:00.
- Train trip via Uppsala-Stockholm-Lund-Copenhagen-Odense-Hamburg-Berlin.
Note: I missed to get off the commuter train in Copenhagen, because it passed the station 10min earlier than stated on my ticket. However, I could go back and catch the next connection train, no harm done.
- The 17h trip was long, but quite a walk-in-the-park compared to the 26h trip by bus in October 2019.
- Reading and listening:
- Maja Göpel (2020). Unsere Welt neu denken. [Audio book]
Comment: The book has a too colloquial writing style for my taste, which may, however, appeal to a larger audience and was just about right during a tiresome journey. I discovered not so many new thoughts in the book, which, however, covers all relevant, major aspects of the sustainability crisis including invitations to action.
- Madeleine Albright (2018). On Fascism. [Print]
Comment: Not quite through it yet, again writing style is too colloquial for my taste (I guess I am reading to many clinical study reports) with too many anecdotes of the author and historical figures (Mussolini, Hitler), which I consider not relevant, but are probably used to indicate the depth of knowledge of the author. Still many interesting analytic and humanistic thoughts, so at one point I felt like it would be great to talk to the author personally or wishing to have her as a wise aunt or grandma to talk with.
- Maja Göpel (2020). Unsere Welt neu denken. [Audio book]
Friday, 2. October
- In the morning, I organized the protest week 5-10 Okt and meetings with friends and family. I read legal info on civil resistance, checked XR news channels and my IT equipment for privacy.
- In the afternoon I ran some errands, incl shopping presents for the kids, having my jacked fixed etc.
- In the evening, I followed up on inquiries at public agencies, eg FM transmitter used for protests in Berlin, via email and did some blogging.
Saturday, 3. October
- In the morning and afternoon, I visited relatives and friends with great talks about the crisis of ecology and democracy.
- In the evening, I learned how to use OpenPGP (Pretty Good Privacy) on Linux and Android phones and drafted a short blog .
Sunday, 4. October
- 10:00-12:00: Lecture by Extinction Rebellion
- 12:00-18:00: Action training
Note: It was a great meeting and I made some nice contacts, among others with a retired protestant priest. However, at one point during the afternoon some people (not XR) started throwing glass bottles down from the rooftop of an 11-storey building nearby, which detonated about 10m from our crowd. Overall 4 bottles were thrown over a period of 45 to 60min. This is not cool. People are weird …
- 19:00-20:30: Action meeting
Monday, 5. October
- Preparation for today’s action, including checking phone encryption etc
- 10:00: Protest “Zug der toten Bäume” starting at the Ministry of Agriculture with a protest march towards the Invalidenpark,
Note: Great audiovisuals with people dressed as trees, carrying dead branches and twigs, classical funeral music (some requiem) with chainsaw sounds in the background. My affinity group and me are in the background holding posters with the three XR demands in foto of this newspaper article .
- 14:30: I took a break at a Cafe, did some shopping and prepared for tomorrows action, blogging, and reading.
- 21:00: After a long day I went to bed early.
Tuesday, 6. October:
- 07:30: Action “Tag der offenen Tür” at the “Haus der Wirtschaft” (House of Economy) including house squatting and road block
- 15:30: Back at the hostel, blogging, organizing next days protests with my affinity group, checking the actions news channel
- 20:30: Short trip to the Vigil at the Invalidenpark
Comment: Article slightly misleading, no “files” , only sheets of paper symbolically representing the “Kohleausstiegsgesetz” were thrown out of the window.
Wednesday, 7. October
- 11:30: Test ride of electric long-tail cargo bikes (Yuba Mundo, Bike43, Tern GSD) at the VELOGUT shop in Berlin
- 15:00: Protest march from the Konrad-Adenauer-Haus (Central Office of the CDU/CSU party) to the Potsdamer Platz
- 17:10: Preparation for next action
- 18:15: Road block with fake trees at several places around the central government district, eg at the Brandenburger Tor (Wilhelmstrasse/Unter den Linden)
Comment: When the police arrived, they unlocked the activists at the “roots” of the “tree”, and then tilted the tree to unlock the female activist standing on top of the “tree”, which was highly distressful because she and other activists were very concerned that the the policemen would not be able to manually handle the very heavy trunk, thereby endangering the life of the activist. Finally, with the help of the the lifting platform of a police truck, the tree was tilted and the activist was taken by the police. However, the female activist looked scared during the operation and started crying afterwards, indicating her level of stress.
Thursday, 8. Oktober
- Morning: Preparing “Photo-Bombing” action at the Brandenburger Tor incl concept, application at the police, announcements on XR channels, etc.
- Lunch: Test ride of the electric longjohn cargo bike “Radkutsche Rapid” at the Radspannerei
- 18:00-20:00: Protest against Deforestation and genocide of indigenous people at the Brazilian Embassy with speeches, video documentary, and performance art to illustrate forest fires using mobile phones (worked very well in the dark). I supported the protest with my “Stop Climate Breakdown! Now!” Banner.
Friday, 9. October
- 8:30-12:00: Action “Photo-Bombing” at the Brandenburg Gate
Note: The action was honoured by the presence of six police vans presumably because of the growing reputation of XR Germany and proximity of government buildings. Our message to “Tell the Truth!” and “Declare climate and ecological emergency!” was broadcasted on holiday snap shots by tourists around the world.
- 13:00: I went back to the hotel to drop my protest equipment, eat, and join the protest at the DEGES, which is the responsible company for planning the highly-critized A49 motorway destroying the Dannenröder Forest. However, a critical increase of the infection rates in Berlin were reported, and, therefore, I decided to stay in my room and plan my return trip the next day.
- 16:00: I watched the documentary “The Devil we Know” about chemical corportation “Dupont” poising the the environment globally with Teflon/C-8
Figure 1: Action “Photo-Bombing” at the Brandenburg Gate, Berlin, on Friday, 2020-10-09 (Please note the couple in front, whose selfie XR successfully “bombed”!)
Saturday, 10. Oktober
- I got up at 4:45pm to take the train at 6:38 in Berlin to arrive at 20:51 in Uppsala. The trip took this time only 14h13m with 4 changes (Berlin-Hamburg-Copenhagen-Malmö-Stockholm-Uppsala). Luckily, I could re-book my trip via Centralens Resebutik in Kalmar on short notice (fantastic job!) and reserve seats on the trains through Denmark, which seemed to be obligatory during this pandemic.