Three German Climate Activists Hit With Prison Sentence

Three climate activists received suspended eight-month prison sentences today, April 23, for spraying orange paint onto Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate. The activists, aged between 22 and 64 years old, are members of the German climate group Last Generation, which made international headlines in September for using paint-filled fire extinguishers to douse the national monument’s columns in orange as part of a demonstration against the use of fossil fuels.

Dating back to the 18th century, the Brandenburg Gate is one of Germany’s best-known landmarks, situated next to Berlin’s Pariser Platz square in the city’s historic center. It is Berlin’s only surviving historical Neoclassical city gate, serving as a symbol of the country’s East and West division during the Cold War and, following the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the fall of the Iron Curtain, as a visual of Germany’s reunification.

Berlin’s Tiergarten District Court told Reuters that the defendants admitted their involvement in the action and said their aim was to protest the country’s climate policy. While the prison sentences are currently suspended for the next two years, they can go into effect if the three activists commit new offenses.

“The defendant’s stated goal of achieving a change in climate policy does not justify such an action,” the court said in a statement to the news wire service, adding that “in a democracy there are other ways to achieve one’s political goals.”

But the defendants’ lawyers, who plan to appeal the verdict, argued that the judge was “not interested in fully clarifying the facts.”

“Right from the start, the judge was on the course of wanting to make short work of it and show a hard edge,” said Lukas Theune, one of the defense attorneys, in a press statement, adding that the judge “rejected all of the defense’s requests for evidence, assuming many of the facts to be proven to be true as justification.”

Hyperallergic has contacted Last Generation for comment.

In the aftermath of the action, the gate’s management company Berliner Immobilienmanagement (BIM) estimated that clean-up costs would be around €35,000 (~$37,456). However, during the trial, an employee of a restoration company involved in the clean-up stated that the damage amount was closer to €10,000 ($10,704). BIM told the Associated Press in September that the paint had stained the monument’s sandstone pillars, making the gate’s restoration more time-consuming and expensive.

In response to the verdict, Last Generation is holding a “solidarity rally” at the Brandenburg Gate at 6pm tomorrow, April 24.

“The Brandenburg Gate stands like no other monument in Germany for great, hopeful turning points in history,” Last Generation spokesperson Lina Johnsen said in a statement.

“The orange Brandenburg Gate should remind us that change and therefore a life according to our common values ​​— humanity, justice, honesty — is possible,” Johnsen continued.

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