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Activist Matthias Trebs from the Last Generation at a weekly market in Berlin

Photo: Dayan Djajadisastra / DER SPIEGEL

It's last Tuesday morning, weekly market on the Maibachufer in Berlin-Neukölln.

It's loud, some traders shout at each other.

Six lemons cost one euro here, you can get a kilo of zucchini for 1.99.

And now there is a threat of escalation, the activist Matthias Trebs and a colleague are faced with the anger of a weekly market visitor.

“Fuck off!” he shouts.

And: “I was stuck in a traffic jam because of you!” Trebs speaks calmly to the man.

At some point he will leave.

This is what can happen when representatives of the “last generation” try to enter into conversation with those whose everyday lives they have previously tried to disrupt.

Recently, Trebs and his people were blocking drivers and sticking themselves to the road.

It was Project Provocation.

But now the change: They want to get off the streets and into the European Parliament.

Elections will take place on June 9th.

And if you want to do politics instead of provocation, you have to take people along and convince them.

It takes 4,500 signatures

That's why the 71-year-old Trebs is collecting signatures this Tuesday.

Or better: he tries.

The weekly market in Neukölln is one of many reality checks that the “last generation” is now facing.

In order to be allowed to take part in the European elections, 4,500 signatures from citizens are required.

The activists don't want to be a party in the strictest sense; last week they announced that they had founded an "other political association" called "Stirring Up Parliament - Voice of the Last Generation."

In contrast to federal elections, such associations can also take part in elections to the European Parliament.

There is no barrier clause like the five percent threshold known in Germany and if they receive more than 0.5 percent of the votes cast, the “last generation” is entitled to state subsidies.

Trebs stands in the cold with his clipboard, orange safety vest, red cap.

Because of his age, he doesn't exactly seem like the typical representative of climate activists.

But after five minutes he has the first signature.

“It’s working,” he says.

The activist appears friendly: “Can I ask you a question,” he asks passers-by in Berlin.

In its program, the “Last Generation” calls for the Europe-wide introduction of randomly drawn social councils and the fastest possible exit from coal, gas and oil.

Trebs speaks slowly and understandably.

After an hour he had already collected five signatures.

His goal this day is 30, but 50 would be better. He is convinced that the combat zone will be expanded: "Gluing is no longer of any use."

You need a foot in the EU Parliament.

MPs who can act as a mouthpiece for activists.

In this way you can stir up parliament and achieve something.

Even beyond Germany.

"Climate change doesn't stop at borders." He stands here for the future of his five children and seven grandchildren, says Trebs.

Despite initial successes at the weekly market, the majority here remains critical.

  • “Absolutely not, Digga,” says a young man when Trebs speaks to him.

  • “For God’s sake, no,” replies an older woman who is pulling a shopping trolley behind her.

  • Others just shake their heads and laugh smugly.

    And some are demonstratively looking in a different direction.

    “It’s not even worth addressing them,” says Trebs.

  • "You're crazy," says a man with gray hair and a black jacket.

    “Better go to work.”

    The classic.

    Trebs tries to explain to the man that he has worked all his life.

    It doesn't help.

The road blockades and the interference in the everyday lives of many people cost a lot of sympathy.

That much is clear.

Trebs seems used to harsh reactions.

He reports that he also experienced violence as an activist.

He has been taking part in the “Last Generation” since May 2023.

Despite his age, he accepts the same risks as the younger ones: he himself stuck himself in Berlin twice, and a third time he was part of the rescue lane - that is, those activists who block but do not stick themselves in place.

During one of the gluing activities he “also received kicks,” he says.

Collecting signatures is a more pleasant job: “If you go to the weekly market, you don’t hate,” says Trebs.

But the angry man incident, above?

Trebs says: "The worst thing that could have happened is that I would catch one."

At the end of the day, Matthias Trebs collected 15 valid signatures.

There are twelve more at home from relatives and friends.

Matthias Trebs has almost reached his goal of 30 signatories.