Fridays for Future: The time of the smile is over

Tens of thousands of climate activists will meet in the lignite mining area over the weekend, including many high school students. Will the protests be peaceful?


The courtyard of the autonomous center in Cologne is hot and stuffy. Nevertheless, on Monday afternoon, a group of 35 young people has arrived here: Marvin is here for the first time, Carlos is in the shopping cart, Max finds train driving cool and Leonie is on the weekend.

What is planned here, however, is not the next party, but one of the biggest actions in the still young history of the Cologne local group of Fridays for Future (FFF). Several climate alliances want to protest on the Corpus Christi weekend in the Rhenish lignite coal mining against coal production and draw attention to the consequences of climate change. The Cologne hope to participate with about 1,000 people in the Star March, which will move on Friday from three directions to the Aachen football stadium, where the final rally is to take place.

All in all, the students alone expect up to 20,000 participants from 16 countries. For the first time was mobilized internationally for the protest in Germany. There are sleeping places in an empty parking garage. Two special trains are booked, several coaches roll into the venerable city in the border triangle, where a few kilometers away without break the largest CO2 source in Europe bubbles: three energy mines and four power plants operated by the Essen energy company RWE in the Rhenish lignite mining district, since the battle for the Hambacher Wald is also internationally recognized. Ever since then, RWE has been something of an archenemy in the eyes of climate activists.

"The protest takes place in a symbolic place," says Jana Boltersdorf, one of the Cologne FFF spokeswoman. "It will be a big deal for us, and of course we hope to reach as many people as possible on this day." Boltersdorf, 17 years, eleventh grade, just before the G8-Abi, is there from the beginning. Almost exactly six months ago, on December 14, 2018, she sat down for the first time in front of the Cologne town hall together with 50 other students to draw attention to the explosive situation of the world's climate, following the example of the Swede Greta Thunberg. "We started small and now we are big and there is no way around us."

It is shaking

The preparatory plenum meets in the Autonomous Center for several hours. Who goes where on Friday and where? Should the people of Cologne wear a distinctive mark? Should the anti-capitalist banner again form the front transparency or do you shy away from it? Disciplined, the moderator leads through the agenda. The culture of discussion amazes. Anyone who agrees to an argument silently reaches up and wiggles his hands. Whoever opposes, takes his arms down and wobbles. Shaking is very common on this early evening.

FFF has fundamentally changed the lives of many students. Next to Boltersdorf Pauline BrĂ¼nger is sitting on the floor. She is also 17 years old and attends the eleventh grade of a Cologne grammar school. "I realized that the climate issue and the fight for the planet's future are important to me, and I often learn more here than at school."

For organizers like Boltersdorf and BrĂ¼nger, FFF is a full-time job that runs alongside the school. More than 500 local groups are registered nationwide, each acting decentralized. The structures have become professionalized within a short time. Each local group consists of several working groups: among others finance, social media, mobilization, press, civil disobedience. Should there be a need for debate on the ideological orientation, the AG theory comes together. The students communicate via messenger groups. Decisions are made on a grassroots basis and consensual. The reaction times are short. Many a party should be astonished.

ref: zeit