In light of the urgency of climate change we consider it to be legitimate to transgress the framework of what is legal with our protest. Thereby we take up the tradition of civil disobedience and direct action that helped social movements achieve important improvements, such as votes for women and the formal equality of people with different skin colours.
Civil disobedience is a violation of legal norms that is symbolic and performed because of conscientious objections, therefore: a conscious decision to transgress these rules. It aims at the immediate prevention of an unjust situation (e.g. airline passengers preventing a deportation by standing up before the machine can set off) or disobeying an order (Rosa Parks remaining seated on the bus, in a spot that is meant to be used by white people only). At the same time, civil disobedience wants to influence the public opinion aswell.
Direct actions are a close relative of civil disobedience. The term describes an immediate intervention in economic and political relations. Instead of yielding ones power to stakeholders (e.g. parlamentarians), the people affected take the implementation of their interest into their own hands. Direct actions can be strikes, sitting blockades, boycotts, occupations of businesses, trees or houses, or sabotage, such as removing gravel from the traintracks in the protest against the transport of nuclear waste in the Wendland.
Our actions are about both: we directly put ourselves in the way of a destructive process, but we also take a stance in the media, which again influences the public debate and increases pressure on decision makers.
Oftentimes bigger actions contain an action consensus that is negotiated during the preparation process. During “Ende Gelaende“ that meant: “We will behave in a calm and cool-headed way. Escalation will not be provoked by us. We will not put people in danger“ or “Our action is not directed at RWE/Vattenfall workers or the police.“
„Ultimately you have to make a choice: What do you have a greater commitment to: To law or to justice.“
„If we want to prevent the worst effects of climate change, every single ton of coal we wrest from the soil is already one too much. Governments are not pulling the emergency brake – which is why we need to act.“
Hannah Eichberger, Ende Gelände