Thousands of climate protesters took to the streets of Frankfurt on Saturday to protest against the role of the German car industry in climate change and environmental destruction.
The march marched past the annual Frankfurt Motor Show (IAA), one of the biggest in the world, with protesters calling for an end to combustion engines and a shift to zero-emission vehicles.
Protesters were seen holding signs reading ‘STOP SUV’, ‘SUV not cool’ and ‘we can’t replace our lungs’.
Others were seen carrying banners calling for a “Verkehrswende” or transport transition; a reference to Germany’s planned transition to renewable energy sources, or “Energiewende”.
Police reported that around 15,000 people, many of them cyclists, took part in the march, according to Reuters. Greenpeace, one of the organizers of the protest, said as many as 25,000 people were involved, including around 18,000 cyclists.
Marie Klee, spokeswoman for climate action group Sand in the Gearbox, praised the success of the protest, saying the response of individuals “willing to participate in a campaign of civil disobedience and put their bodies on the path of the mighty automobile industry” had exceeded their expectations.
“An IAA in this form will certainly no longer exist. The days when VW, Daimler and BMW and co. celebrated their destructive cans without any interruptions,” she said.
Besides Greenpeace, many different climate groups were present at the protest, including Friends of the Earth and Extinction Rebellion. Thousands of cyclists also took part in the “Sternfahrt” or “Star Ride”, which involved them blocking key highways in the way of the protest.
“Despite the inevitable effects of the climate crisis, manufacturers at the IAA continue to present a majority of petrol or diesel cars,” Greenpeace Germany said in a statement released ahead of the protests.
“Only around a quarter of the newly introduced vehicles in Frankfurt are pure electric cars.”
The climate organization referenced a report it released earlier this week, which showed that three of Germany’s biggest automakers – Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW – had a combined global carbon footprint of 878 million tonnes of C02 in 2018, which exceeded the overall emissions of the whole country in the same period.
Marion Tiemann, a Greenpeace transport expert, warned that Chancellor Angela Merkel could ‘no longer sit and watch auto executives put on green crowns, while continuing to develop and sell climate-damaging diesel and petrol vehicles’ .
Ernst-Christoph Stolper, deputy director of Friends of the Earth Germany, said: “Enough for policies that put cars first in our cities. Pedestrians and cyclists must conquer the urban spaces that belong to us.
Tina Velo, another spokesperson for Sand in the Gearbox, said: “The transport policy of Andreas Scheuer (German Minister for Transport and Digital Infrastructure) has led to a blockage. Paying lip service to railway construction is not enough. Cars must give way to pedestrians, cyclists and trains on the street. The climate crisis can only be halted by a radical change in traffic.
The protest came just two days after Merkel opened the IAA auto show on Thursday, calling on the industry to step up efforts to develop sustainable modes of transport.
“Great mobility will have its price if more efficient and climate-friendly vehicles are not produced,” she said, while urging automakers to invest more in developing sustainable and affordable vehicles.
She warned, however, that we are still “far from having 100% renewable energy” and said that meeting Europe’s 2030 climate targets was a “Herculean task”.