um to understand why the placement of climate activists in preventive custody in Bavaria is currently a political issue, going back to 2018 helps. At that time, tens of thousands demonstrated against the Police Tasks Act (PAG), more precisely against an amendment that provided for a tightening of the legal situation in one point in particular: the maximum duration of preventive detention should be increased from 14 days with a view to Islamist threats who cannot be deported quickly be extended for a potentially indefinite period. A judge should only check every three months whether the conditions for detention are still met.
The law, which the state parliament approved in May 2018 with a CSU majority, came at a time when the ruling party was neglecting its liberal roots. This did not only apply to the PAG. In its original version, the Mental Health Assistance Act provided for an accommodation file whose personalized data could also be sent to the police to prevent criminal offenses. Above all, however, the asylum dispute boiled up – the CSU insisted to Chancellor Angela Merkel on being able to turn refugees back at the border.
Judge decides on reasonable duration
The opposition in Bavaria took advantage of this. They forged an alliance that not only included the usual suspects from the extreme left, but also those FDP. These actors managed to give the impression that Söder, Seehofer and Co. are the greater danger to society than the perpetrators. This is one of the reasons why the CSU narrowly avoided embarrassment in the 2018 election. In 2021, the PAG was also relaxed on the basis of the recommendations of a commission of experts, and preventive detention was shortened to a maximum of two months.
As the Augsburg law professor Josef Franz Lindner told the FAZ, this is still the longest period of time compared to other countries – apart from Schleswig-Holstein, where no maximum period is regulated. However, his colleague Michael Kubiciel points out that in Bavaria, too, it is up to the judge to “determine a reasonable period of time within the framework set by the maximum limit”.
In any case, the recent history of the PAG was controversial – and the climate activists are now building on that. They deliberately made blockades in front of the Munich Palace of Justice in order to relate climate protection and the rule of law. They see the politicians as the actual lawbreakers, after all, according to a ruling by the Federal Constitutional Court, a lack of climate protection is a violation of the Basic Law.
With the PAG in mind, the activists not only accepted being arrested, they set out to do so. As the engineer Wolfgang Metzeler-Kick said before a blockade: He had already packed his toothbrush and a prison diary.
The strategy behind it can be summed up as follows: by not evading preventive detention, one shows that one recognizes the rule of law. The general public should also find it scandalous that people are taken into custody even though their concerns are covered by the Basic Law. Some observers see the germ of terrorism in this figure of thought, according to the RAF motto: forcing the state to show its true colors.
Climate activist begins hunger strike
But the figure of thought also appears in other contexts – and the climate activists refer to them. In the 1960s, for example, there were the Freedom Riders in America: whites and blacks drove together in buses to the southern states to check to what extent the end of racial segregation in public transport, ordered by the Supreme Court in Washington, had actually become a reality. They did that non-violent, but were unlawfully arrested nonetheless. In 2017, Barack Obama dedicated a memorial to her. Many climate activists are also counting on such a turn.
According to the Munich district court, 13 of them were still in custody on Wednesday. Leo Elgas, 23, mathematics student from Heidelberg, activist of the “Last Generation”, was free again. Although he assured the judge, as he reported to the FAZ, that he would keep blocking until the beginning of December, he was only held in the Stadelheim prison for a week. Anders Metzeler kick. The engineer (and father) is still in custody – and has now started a hunger strike. He only wants to end it when politicians meet one of three demands.
Firstly, recognizing that the 1.5 degree target is no longer achievable. Second: debt relief for the Global South. Third: Decarbonization of the transport sector, for example through a speed limit. When drilling these boards, which vary in thickness, a dilemma emerges that also worries the “last generation”: they deliberately make demands that are relatively easy to fulfill and, according to surveys, can be won by a majority, such as the speed limit, in order to defend themselves against the accusation that they are thinking in utopias and despise the will of the majority. In the end, however, this led to the paradoxical effect that conservatives in particular accused her of saying that the speed limit only had a minor effect and that it was ridiculous to paralyze traffic for it.
So far, not even the Greens have achieved the desired solidarity. They have now rediscovered their criticism of the PAG, for example Katharina Schulze, leader of the parliamentary group. Nevertheless, they do not like the actions of the climate activists. In a guest article for “Zeit online”, Schulze writes with party friend Konstantin von Notz: “We share the goal that, as a strong country, we urgently need to do more for climate protection”, and then add: “Where we are responsible , let’s do this.” The “last generation” doesn’t think so at all.