Should you protest against anything at all

Protest against the expansion of the A49"Of course this is something that triggers anger and frustration"

For days, activists have been protesting against the construction of a 30-kilometer section of the A49 from Kassel in the direction of Giessen. This is to be led through dense forest areas in Central Hesse, which are considered to be particularly climate-resistant with their old oak population and comparatively healthy mixed forest. Several hectares of trees are to be felled for the new section of the motorway in the Dannenröder forest. On Tuesday (October 13th, 2020) environmentalists roped off a bridge on the A3 as a protest. The police then blocked both lanes between Idstein and Bad Camberg, which led to kilometers of traffic jams. At one end of the traffic jam there was an accident in which a man was seriously injured.

(Jörg Halisch / dpa) Protest against motorway construction - blockade action in Hesse leads to serious accident
The protests against the further construction of the A49 between Kassel and Gießen have become more radical since the clearing of the planned route began. A motorway blockade now led to a serious accident.

"I think it's important that protest remains non-violent"

You find it very regrettable that a man was harmed, said the transport policy spokeswoman for the Greens in the Hessian state parliament, Katy Walther, in the Dlf. However, the courts would have to decide whether the rear-end collision was to be seen in connection with the abseiling action. They find it "totally dangerous to do something like this", but the activists have the right to protest. It is important to her that all those involved think about "what the consequences of their actions will be" and "that they try to ensure that no one is harmed and that no one moves beyond the legal framework.

The expansion has kept numerous courts busy in recent years. In Hesse, the construction of the A49 is part of the black-green coalition agreement. There is still a lot to change in the construction of the autobahn on the A49, but not from Hessen, but in Berlin. "It is still up to the transport minister to stop the project and win the majority in the Bundestag."

She understands the anger of the young people who are now protesting and finding no arguments at all for clearing a mixed forest at this point for a motorway that is over 40 years old and ignoring "that the Paris climate protection targets are not being met and the transport sector is the main contributor ".

Friedbert Meurer: This action yesterday on the A3 motorway - are the activists going too far to abseil down from motorway bridges and endanger traffic?

Katy Walther: First of all, the activists have the right to protest. It is very important to us that the protest always remains peaceful. And I find it very unfortunate that someone was harmed yesterday. But the legal assessment of this procedure must of course be made by the courts and the public prosecutor's offices. And I don't even want to comment on whether this rear-end collision has to be judged in connection with this action.

"Do not anticipate the prosecution and courts"

Meurer: Another question is: do you agree to abseiling off a highway bridge? The cars below drive at 130 km / h.

Walther: I think it's totally dangerous to do something like that and I wouldn't do it personally either. But again, I have already said it: the courts have to assess whether this should be seen in context. There are already relevant judgments on this. But I don't want to prejudice the public prosecutor's office and the courts.

"It is important that the protest remains non-violent"

Meurer: But you could say now that you are telling the activists not to do this anymore.

Walther: Of course I could do that and I think it's important that the protest remains non-violent. We always did that. It would be important to me that the activists and everyone else involved in the protests think about the consequences of their actions and that they try to ensure that no people are harmed. That would be important to me at the point.

Meurer: Sounds like this: you advise against it, but you do not directly ask not to do it?

Walther: I call for nonviolence and that everyone thinks about the consequences of acting one way or another, and I think I'm pretty clear about that right now.

Meurer: How far can one go in protest against the construction of the autobahn?

Walther: I think we're going around a bit in circles now. I said yes, legally I cannot evaluate this matter at all. The courts have to do that, of course, to what extent this rear-end collision at the end of a traffic jam can now be connected with it.

Meurer: I also don't want any legal expertise from you. But you are in the Dannenröder forest, for example, talking to demonstrators. What do you tell them then?

Walther: I tell them to take care of yourselves, think carefully that on the other side of the barricade there are people in uniforms too, and see that you do not move beyond the legal framework, that you hold a peaceful protest, that you have all rights uses that you have as protesters, who are also written down. Otherwise, we want no one to be harmed. This is my position at the point.

"We don't have a handle at the moment"

Meurer: The matter itself, this motorway construction: The Greens were against it for decades, but were unable to prevent it. You should have said it was over. Did it go? There is nothing more to be changed in the construction of the motorway?

Walther: Of course, there is a lot to change in the construction of the autobahn, but not from Hesse, it has to be done by the Bundestag and the Federal Minister of Transport. It is a federal motorway, a federal motorway, and it is still up to the Minister of Transport to stop the project, and the majorities in the Bundestag - and they can do that. There was a moratorium motion by the Greens to achieve exactly that and to disclose the PPP project documents so that the population can also take a look. Both were rejected by the Bundestag. So we don't have a handle at the moment.

Meurer: Is that sentence of you, rumored by Fridays for Future members, true that you said at a meeting that the battle is lost?

Walther: The battle is never lost. It is of course the case that there is still a handle. I just said that.

Meurer: But the question is whether you said the sentence. Did you say it or didn't you say it like that?

Walther: I have already corrected that to the "FAZ". I said that we in Hessen have no way of stopping the project now. That's the sentence I said.

"When we weighed up other projects in the coalition agreement, we approved it as an important concern of the CDU"

Meurer: Now your party is being accused of not being able to enforce in the coalition agreement or against your coalition partner the CDU to stop the construction of the autobahn. How uncomfortable do the Greens feel in this situation that they have approved it?

Walther: Yeah good. It's always like that. In the first coalition agreement, we had re-negotiated that the financing and legal protection of the project had to be in place, because we assumed that the federal government would not be able to raise the money for this mammoth project. Then we faced the situation and saw that it did happen after all and that we in Hesse will not have a handle. That is why, when we weighed up all the other projects in the coalition agreement, we approved it as an important concern of the CDU. Do we feel comfortable with it now, when our Green local and district associations have been fighting against this project for 40 years and have done environmental protection projects and climate protection projects with every stag beetle? - No of course not.

Meurer: Years after that decision, which was a few years ago, five, six years, do you say today that it was a mistake to admit that the CDU did?

Walther: Yeah good. If you rule alone, you can get 100 percent of your cause. Coalition negotiations are of course always concessions to both sides. And when you see that you have no means from Hessen to prevent a federal motorway, then you have to make a decision somehow after considering the other projects. The decision has been made and we are still trying to prevent this motorway project at the federal level - and that is the lever. And then we'll see what happens.

"It's about the future of young people"

Meurer: How do you rate the mood among climate protectors? There was this meeting of you, Ms. Walther, with Fridays for Future. Do you feel like the young people are quite disappointed in you?

Walther: Yeah good. There is of course anger and disappointment and I totally understand them. It is also like that. It's about the future of all of us. It's about the future of young people. We're tearing the climate protection goals from Paris and of course that's what triggers frustration and anger. I understand the young people who are protesting there and who are not finding any arguments for clearing this mixed forest on the spot for a motorway that is over 40 years old and not responding at all to the fact that the Paris climate protection targets are not being met and the transport sector is the main contributor. I understand that. But of course it is also difficult for young people to understand that in a democracy we do not disregard law and order, and of course we keep coming up with conflicts and arguments that we have to lead, but which of course are not always recognized become. I totally understand.

Meurer: Did that damage the Greens' credibility?

Walther: I think it would be extremely damaging to the credibility of the Greens if we simply tossed the rule of law overboard. Of course, it is difficult to always argue with the rule of law in the argument, but that is what unites us in the end and what should be the guideline for all of us. So I think that it has not damaged our credibility if you have the same standards as us. But I also understand that the boys put on completely different things.

Meurer: If you argue with the rule of law - I will probably annoy you again now ...

Walther: They are not annoying at all!

"Not the one who teaches young people how to act out their protest"

Meurer: If you are in the Dannenröder Forest, you should actually tell them that tree houses are illegal.

Walther: Yeah good. The young people are gone, have chosen their forms of protest, have made their tree houses, now have a general order that the forest must be cleared in the various evacuation areas for security reasons, and the police are now enforcing this. I'm not the one who teaches young people how to act out their protest.

Meurer: Have you ever been asked to join them?

Walther: No I'm not. We had good conversations, but I'm not free from vertigo either. So that wouldn't be the right action for me.

Statements by our interlocutors reflect their own views. Deutschlandfunk does not adopt statements made by its interlocutors in interviews and discussions as its own.