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Monday, September 2, 2019

Anti-Car German Protest Groups Call for End to Internal Combustion, Cause Mischief

  • Environmental protest groups have been actively opposing the auto industry in Germany this summer, blocking a train carrying new Volkswagen vehicles earlier this month with their bodies.
  • Several groups are combining forces for a protest planned at the public opening date for the Frankfurt auto show in September.
  • They are demanding more efficient electric vehicles, an end to internal-combustion, slower speed limits, and climate neutrality, among other things.

As the automotive industry shifts gets ready to shift its attention to the Frankfurt auto show in Germany, a group of activists is organizing a massive demonstration that calls for an immediate phase-out of internal-combustion engines, a dramatic slowing of speed limits, and climate-neutral mobility by 2035.

Earlier this month, protesters sat down in front of trains carrying new Volkswagen vehicles to dealers. The BBC reported that the activisits "chained themselves to tracks to stop a train transporting cars" from the Wolfsburg plant in Germany.

The protest will take place September 14 at the Frankfurt auto show and will include marchers and bikers converging outside the convention center as well as smaller events. The organizers say that the auto show is a place where "crooked car companies celebrate their powerful SUVs and gas guzzlers while the German government applauds . . . But we the citizens are sick and tired of transport policies fixated on cars." IAA organizers say that security will be tightened for this year's event.

"Step out! The traffic is turning around" reads this protest announcement.

The groups involved in the protest are demanding a robust Climate Protection Law by late 2019, improved streets for pedestrians and cyclists and "a massive increase in bus and train services," lower speed limits on the autobahn (to a maximum of 75 mph) and in residential areas (down to 19 mph in cities and 50 mph in outlying areas), and that the auto industry provide "efficient electro mobility instead of big electric SUVs."

In a possibly related incident, a number of vehicles were vandalized at an auto dealer in Kronberg, near Frankfurt. More than 40 luxury vehicles, including some from Land Rover, Aston Martin, and Jaguar, were damaged by having their windows, lights, or mirrors smashed, as the video below, shared on Facebook, shows. Body panels were also damaged in the attack. Local police are investigating and have said they are looking into an anonymous post on IndyMedia, supposedly by a protest group calling itself Rocks in the Gearbox. Police have not said if they consider the post to be authentic. The post claims, "In social movements, it is necessary to cross the line, to disobey, and also to be militant" and: "Enough! No one needs to drive luxury cars! Find yourself another status symbol, if you're not good enough on your own."

A Rocks in the Gearbox spokesperson told the Frankfurter Neue Presse that the group was unaware of the vandalism and that sabotage is not one of its methods. "The people who did this are not part of our group," she said, while also expressing solidarity with anyone who stands against the auto industry, "as long as no one is harmed."

Rocks in the Gearbox is affiliated with the planned Frankfurt protest and is planning its own blockade of the auto show on September 15. The group is focused on climate change and mobility and demands car-free cities, more room for pedestrians and bikes, and a massive (and free) public transit network.

By: Car and Driver

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