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Brandenburg Gate Vandalized in Latest Protest

by Jack Levy, Staff Writer

Over the past year, there have been numerous protests by climate change policy activists. These protests from organizations such as “Just Stop Oil” have garnered attention by their methods of vandalism and public disruption.

Last November, members of the Italian climate activist group Ultima Generazione gained attention by throwing pea soup on a Van Gogh painting to protest against climate change.

Similarly, last October, members of the activist group “Just Stop Oil” threw tomato soup at Van Gogh’s Sunflower painting.

Most recently, on Sept. 17, climate change activists from the group “Last Generation” spray-painted columns of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin orange to protest climate change.

The Brandenburg Gate is one of Germany’s most famous monuments. Constructed in 1791, the gate has survived both World Wars and stood between East Berlin and West Berlin during the Cold War.

Courtesy of Reuters

“I think it turns people away from their cause,” junior finance major Jake Shaw said about the protest. “Most people aren’t going to support a group that defaces a 200-year-old monument.” 

Other students feel that the group’s motives are different from what they claim them to be.

“Whenever these groups do this I just think they want attention, they don’t really care about climate change,” junior SUNY Old Westbury Computer Science major Gus Ciaccio said.

The group Last Generation released a statement after the protest saying “The protest makes it clear: It is time for a political change. Away from fossil fuels — towards fairness.”

“I don’t know what symbolism orange paint has, but I don’t see how spray-painting the Brandenburg Gate orange has anything to do with climate change or fossil fuels,” Shaw said in response to Last Generation’s statement.

Despite a lot of backlash from the public and even condemnation from the government in some cases, many other groups have been encouraged to protest against climate change using similar methods.

Recently, videos on social media have shown climate change activists glue their hands to roads to stop traffic. These protests have been to stand out against the pollution created by motor vehicles.

“Gluing your hand to asphalt and holding everyone up is only gonna make people mad,” Ciaccio said. “Protesting shouldn’t bother and hold up everyone around you.”

However, the backlash to these protests doesn’t mean young people don’t support the cause of these activist groups.

 According to the Pew Research Center, 67 percent of Generation Z (Born between 1996 and 2010) believe that “climate should be a top priority to ensure a sustainable planet for future generations.” Gen Z also leads all other generation groups with 37 percent of them saying that “addressing climate change is my top personal concern.”

“It isn’t the cause, it’s the fact that they’re breaking the law and damaging property,” Shaw said. “Most people already believe that [climate change] is an issue, so you don’t need to take these protests to such a dramatic point.”

Climate activist groups argue that the reason they have taken such drastic measures in their protests is because the traditional methods of protesting have not worked and the planet is running out of time.

A blog post from the activist group Just Stop Oil said “We’re terrifyingly close to losing  [the earth], so we have to break the rules. And that means pushing cultural buttons to provoke, challenge and shock. There’s no other way.”

“Yes, the climate crisis is urgent, but there have been so many protests that have brought change without vandalizing monuments and historic works of art,” Shaw said. “I think it’s a stretch to say ‘the world is so close to ending that we need to throw soup at paintings.”’

Fourteen members of the group were detained by German police and an investigation has been initiated for criminal damage to property.

Berlin Mayor Kai Wegner said, “The group is not only damaging the historic Brandenburg Gate, but also our free discourse about the important issues of our time and future.”

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