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Climate Activists Receive Eight-Month Suspended Sentences for Spraying Orange Paint on Brandenburg Gate


Three members of the climate advocacy group Last Generation were handed eight-month prison sentences by the Berlin Tiergarten District Court after they sprayed orange paint on the Brandenburg Gate. The activists, whose ages range from 22 to 64, carried out the protest in September using fire extinguishers filled with paint, coating the iconic landmark’s sandstone columns to voice their opposition to the continued use of fossil fuels. The Brandenburg Gate, dating back to the 18th century, is not only a symbol of Germany’s historical and cultural heritage but also represents the nation’s reunification post-Cold War.

Court Decision and Defence Appeal

The court ruled that the activists’ intention to push for a change in climate policy did not justify their actions, stating that there are other democratic means to achieve political goals. Despite the defendants admitting their involvement, their lawyers expressed dissatisfaction with the proceedings. Defence attorney Lukas Theune criticised the judge for not being open to fully exploring the facts and indicated plans to appeal the verdict. Theune accused the judge of prematurely deciding on a harsh stance and disregarding the defence’s evidence requests.

Discrepancy in Damage Estimates

The aftermath of the protest left the monument in need of significant restoration. Initial estimates by Berliner Immobilienmanagement (BIM), the gate’s management company, placed the cleanup costs at around €35,000 (approximately $37,456). However, during the trial, a restoration company employee suggested the actual costs were closer to €10,000 ($10,704). BIM reported that the orange paint led to staining that complicated and escalated the restoration efforts.

Activists Plan Solidarity Rally

In reaction to the court’s verdict, Last Generation announced a solidarity rally scheduled for 6pm on April 24 at the Brandenburg Gate. Last Generation spokesperson Lina Johnsen emphasised the symbolic significance of the gate, suggesting that the orange paint served as a reminder that societal change aligned with values of humanity, justice, and honesty is feasible.

The response from Last Generation and its supporters highlights ongoing tensions between activist tactics and legal boundaries in the context of escalating climate change concerns. As this legal battle continues, the dialogue around effective and permissible forms of protest remains as heated and complex as the climate issues at its heart.

Feature image: Two climate activists paint the Brandenburg Gate with orange paint. The Last Generation group announced on Thursday that members had painted the west side of the building with paintbrushes. Courtesy: Annette Riedl/dpa

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