The police forces of the German Lands in 2022 found themselves with a new, unexpected problem to deal with: glue. Precisely the glue used by the activists of Letzte Generation (Last Generation) to stick to the asphalt of roads and highways and create traffic blocks that cause kilometric queues. Or to disrupt the air traffic of airports where they find a way to access the runways and stick to the pavement.
By January 24, the anniversary of the first action in Berlin, the environmental group had caused 1,250 roadblocks across Germany, with about 800 participants, then almost always stopped by the police. Removing people from the asphalt and then forcibly taking them away before last year was not part of the routine of the Polizei, which was not even well equipped to do it. As explained by the operational technical units of Berlin which have been christened Asphalt, it is a question of intervening with vegetable oil.
The new environmentalists
by Benedetta Barone, Luca Cirese, Giacomo Talignani
03 March 2023
The oil (olive, rapeseed, sunflower, for example) is slowly applied to the skin glued to the asphalt using a spatula, a brush, a disposable syringe without a needle or a gauze bandage. Then the glued body parts are slowly detached from the surface to which they are attached by gentle wrist movements. Generally this is enough, but there was also a case – as the Berlin police told the Berliner Zeitung – in which an activist had to be removed from the road together with a piece of asphalt. The situation becomes more complicated when activists stick to concrete, in this case the presence of a doctor together with the technical task force may be necessary, and the intervention requires at least an hour of work.
Police forces all over Germany are organizing to handle the problem of glued climate activists in 30-90 minutes of work thanks to the oil-solvent. In Bavaria, two regional special units have been set up in Munich and Murnau, called Glue-on-Teams which are available around the clock to quickly remove activists from the road and to quickly avoid or resolve traffic obstacles. In Baden-Württemberg, where the Polizei has already faced 22 actions by activists attached to the road surface, officers say we are well prepared.
Letzte Generation activists during a glue blitz on the Berlinale red carpet (photo: John MacDougall/Afp via Getty Images)
After more than 1000 hours of interventions in this context and almost as many dedicated to solving traffic jams – according to the president of the German police union Ralf Kusterer the most exhausting part of the problem – the officers now know what they have to do.
But the interventions so far have already cost the coffers of the Land in southwest Germany the beauty of around 60,650 euros, also because the roads then have to be cleaned of oil and glue. According to the Ministry of the Interior of the same Land since March last year the police departments have been provided with recommendations on how to behave both from a legal and a practical point of view in this type of situation. The theme is included in the training courses, even for the special teams that are used in particular in the event of events. North Rhine-Westphalia is also arming itself against climate activists sticking to the asphalt.
Climate, raid by activists on the Vatican museums: glued to Laocoon in protest
Currently about 10,000 police officers are following special mandatory training courses which also take place electronically. The tool at their disposal is always the same: vegetable oil, an aid that would have been unthinkable a year ago, when cooking oil was among the foods in shortage at the start of the war in Ukraine and when almost all supermarkets had rationed purchases to one bottle per family and prices doubled.