On 29 November, a new round of protests organised by the Fridays for Future movement took place in different cities all over the world. On behalf of the Solidarity group of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum, Anna Fomina, a lawyer from St. Petersburg specializing on climate issues, and Anna Wågen, intern at the Forum, observed the climate strike in Berlin.

Long before the climate strike on 29 November 2019, posters and stickers were hanging all over Berlin – practically in every shop, café, restaurant – encouraging people to come to Brandenburger Tor and express their opinion on climate problems not only in Germany, but in the whole world. On the announced day, instead of going crazy for the sales on Black Friday and clearing the shelves for Christmas presents, approximately 60,000 people followed the organisers’ call and took to Berlin’s streets.

The composition of participants varied so much that it is impossible to give a general description of the average protester. There were entire families with children – infants as well as bigger children. There were elderly people who vigorously walked the whole march. Musicians and bands who threw thematic battles directly on the street. Entire collectives from companies and organisations who devoted this working Friday to the climate. Students, bicyclists, introverts, dog lovers and cat lovers. If not every segment of the population was represented, then at least most of them – it was indeed a protest of the masses.

Furthermore, the speakers and the demonstrators did not prefer one specific ecological problem over others. There was a lot of talk and posters about the need to stop using coal, about global warming, melting of glaciers and polar ice caps, microplastics and pollution of the world oceans, but all of those topics were raised with a common message: we need to act together, we need to act now. People demanded climate justice, to at least restore and save what we have left.

One thing that struck me during the protest, was the fact that there practically was no police there. Of course, there were police officers on the square and along the route during the march, and they had closed some streets. Nonetheless, they were completely discreet, they did not disturb or hinder people who left the march earlier and went to the neighbouring streets, they did not stand in lines as shields before protesters, they were not equipped as if they were prepared for a deadly battle. They even smiled at people. That is how a peaceful protest should be – without arrests for no reason, without pressure, without law-enforcement authorities demonstrating their power.

Sadly, on that day in Russia, local authorities in many cities were afraid of giving permissions to peaceful demonstrations. In the cities where protests were authorised, participants were not allowed to bring posters written in foreign languages, and, for example, raise the topic of Shies.[1]  During the protest in Berlin, the posters were in different languages, and that did not cause misunderstandings, because people who want to express their opinion about problems in their society have the right to choose their mode of expression, be it a poster in any language, a dinosaur costume, or simply carrying a broccoli in their hands.

Apparently, this protest did not gather as many people as the one in September – back then, as much as 1,4 million people all over Germany took to the streets. Nevertheless, in my opinion, that is an enormous achievement. I would really want climate issues to gather as many or even more people in Russia as well. The more we talk about existing problems, the more we pay attention to them – and the more committed we are to look for a solution together, the higher are the chances that all is not lost yet.

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Anna Fomina is a human rights lawyer from St. Petersburg who specialises on environmental issues, and has been leading cases regarding the right to a favourable environment.

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