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23 Mar 2020, 14:03
Benjamin Wehrmann

German Fridays for Futures leader warns against protests during corona crisis

Süddeutsche Zeitung

The outbreak of the novel coronavirus in Germany and the rest of Europe means that the weekly Fridays for Future (FfF) protests for greater climate action need to be suspended for the foreseeable future. University student Luisa Neubauer, who has become a well-known face of the movement in Germany, said in an interview with Süddeutsche Zeitung that "taking to the streets now would be pointless and wrong." She also added that FfF would now work on establishing different forms of protest, primarily through online-based activities. Germany enacted far-reaching restrictions on social activities this Monday, including a ban on gatherings of more than two people in public spaces, in a bid to slow the virus's spread. Schools and childcare institutions shut or at least ceased most of their activities at the beginning of last week.

"We want to give people who stay at home now access to education," Neubauer said. "I think there's some irony to that. We [FfF] have been accused of skipping school on Fridays. Now we offer education programmes." She called on younger people in the country, who have been singled out for often ignoring social distancing orders, to "grow up" and heed the government's restrictions. Regarding the virus's effect of reducing greenhouse gas emissions due to lower economic activity, Neubauer said these were poised to remain short-lived and merely "unintended consequences of a terrible pandemic" that "have nothing to with what FfF fights for."

Climate strikes led by FfF and other environmental organisation attracted an estimated 1.4 million people across Germany in late 2019. The school strike movement started by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg has expanded far beyond students and now draws supporters of all ages and backgrounds, a study found.

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