Police in Germany on Wednesday (May 24) searched 15 properties across the country over protests by Last Generation, a climate activist group. In Munich, prosecutors are investigating seven suspects aged between 22 and 38.
There is suspicion that they were forming or supporting a criminal organisation, said police in a statement. No arrests have reportedly been made.
The suspects are believed to have been raising funds to finance further crimes on behalf of Last Generation. The police say that they have collected at least 1.4 million euros ($1.54 million) in donations.
It is suspected that two of the defendants sabotaged the Trieste-Ingolstadt oil pipeline. It is considered critical infrastructure and hence, is subject to special protection.
The searches took place in Hesse, Hamburg, Saxony-Anhalt, Saxony, Bavaria, Berlin and Schleswig-Holstein. Two accounts were seized and an asset freeze was ordered.
Last Generation activists have been causing large-scale disruption across Germany in recent months through activities such as glueing themselves to roads and blocking rush-hour traffic. They have also flung mashed potatoes on paintings in museums and have blocked airport runways.
Such activities by the group in order to push the government to do more about climate change have divided public opinion in Germany.
At a press conference following the raids, the activists said they will not be bogged down. Spokeswoman Aimee van Baalen admitted that she was terrified when she learnt about the raids targeting her friends.
“They frighten us, but we must not persist in this fear. The government is steering us into a climate hell with our eyes wide open,” she said. “We must continue our resistance,” she said, calling a demonstration next Wednesday.
Courts take tougher actions
In recent weeks, dozens of climate activists from the group have been brought to court over their traffic blockade action. Most of them have been fined for disrupting traffic or obstructing police work. But some courts have begun taking tough action and have handed jail time as well.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and his coalition partners, including the Greens, have expressed frustration. Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck of the Greens has said the street blockades were “not a helpful contribution to climate protection” because they don’t win consensus but they “irritate people”.
Scenes of angry motorists shouting at the glued activists or dragging them off the streets have accompanied many of the street blockades. The activists argue, however, that their protests are vital in the face of inadequate action taken by the government and society, in general, to protect the environment and prevent catastrophic global warming.