In the context of the repression of the action on the Quaibrücke in June 2020 and the October 2021 rebellion in Zurich a small group of people have chosen to oppose the charge of disproportionate coercion in the fight for climate justice all the way to the Federal Court and, if necessary, to continue the fight to the European Court of Human Rights.
Police custody, up to 48 hours of pre- trial detention, fingerprint and DNA testing, strip searches and the charge of a misdemeanour, that implies an entry in one’s criminal record, are disproportionate means, which clearly have only one purpose: to intimidate and discourage climate activists with chilling effect. Our actions were announced and took place peacefully. No incidents or damage were reported. We therefore believe that our action falls within the right to demonstrate and the right of expression, and that it is legitimate given the worst state of emergency known to humanity. While we have known since at least the 1970s that our system is not sustainable, politicians persist in denial and are content with cosmetic measures that will not make it possible to achieve the objectives set by the Paris agreements, which Switzerland, moreover, had committed to respect. It is the inaction of our leaders and the comfortable ignorance of the majority that have forced us to take to the streets.
At 30 years old, I have been active in the energy transition since my master’s degree at EPFL. The 10 years that separate me from that time have taught me that technologies alone will not save the world: renewable energies and energy saving measures, implemented for their own sake, bring down the price of fossil fuels and free up money to buy them. This is known as the rebound effect. The result: for 30 years that the EU has been exhausting itself with transitional measures, its emissions have been hopelessly stable since 2014 and no one has been able to get them to start falling down, let alone reach carbon neutrality.
In March 2019, took place the “declaration of rebellion”, in Bern… In its demands as well as its principles, Extinction Rebellion corresponded in all respects to what I felt was necessary: to gather in the streets, peacefully but in ever greater numbers, to put pressure on governments and to ask not for authoritarian measures, but for a recognition of the emergency and for citizens’ assemblies, a tool of participatory democracy to deal with it. So here I am, “disobedient”… In our ordered Switzerland, civil disobedience means not telling the police where and when you are going to gather. You don’t have to go very far to put the climate on the political agenda and force the media to talk about it. It seems largely proportionate to the threat.
Then, there was the response of the authorities: no police violence, but trials, much more underground and demobilising. A stinging, official, blind disavowal of the scientists’ message. The courts go so far as to write that our objective is not to alert the climate, but to block traffic, and thus justify that we are not worthy of fundamental freedoms.
For me, this raises an even more serious issue than global warming: it is the evolution of our society under the effect of climate change. It’s easy to scare oneself with the question “What would happen if everyone started expressing their opinions without warning at any time and place?” What happens in August when everyone decides to go to the beach at the same time? But if only it were so, the problem would soon be solved! Conversely, the question today is: “What happens when no one can express their opinion in the street anymore without first making sure that all the required administrative steps have been taken?” To be honest, the answer to that question is scarier to me than the prospect of dying in a deadly heat wave in a few decades. So I pick my battles: I’ll go to Strasbourg if I have to.
But you, please, take my place in the street.
Pressemitteilung - Communiqué de presse - Comunicate stampa 30.08.2022
44 years old, average citizen, radiology technician, mother of 2 children.
When the weather is good, my spirits are high. When I’m surrounded by nature, I’m ecstatic.
But when I see the ravages that human beings inflict upon it, I am overwhelmed.
We cannot live without biodiversity, the interactions between living beings are enormous. While we are part of this whole, we are the only species to have caused the extinction of millions of others.
As the catastrophe comes fast and hard, it terrifies me. I sometimes feel tiny to be able to act. Even though I sort out my waste (one garbage bag in 24 days, my record!), eat locally, save energy… etc, it’s not enough. The democratic way, the initiatives with the votes are so long and dangerous that it is necessary to dis-connect this slowness and act. I could fight like hell.
So I joined the Doctors for XR, the health branch of XR, to militate, together with other rebels with the same vision as me. I realized that I was not alone, isolated, worrying about the uncertain and dark future we are preparing for our children.
In fact, I encountered my eco-anxiety before I conceived my first child. I asked myself if I had the right to bring into the world a being who might have to fight for access to water, food, be exposed to possible pandemics, droughts, etc., but in any case will live in a much uglier world than the one I grew up in. Today, I have a certain eco-lucidity.
Who hasn’t realized, in their own lifetime, that the climate is changing? Less snow in winter, scorching summers, villages without drinking water at certain times, more and more shocking bad weather every year, animals that we no longer see… etc.
So yes, I participated in the October rebellion of XR in Zurich. I sat on that pedestrian crossing in full awareness of my actions. I had to take time off work and arrange childcare to allow me to do so. Indeed, I am helpless in the face of all the inaction of the heads of state, the failure to respect the climate commitments made by our government.
What revolts me and pushes me to act is the injustice. Indeed, I sat down for 2 minutes and 20 seconds, with 3 other rebel women. We were arrested and spent 47 hours in police custody for this. I am accused of coercion, according to art. 181 of the penal code, like all the other rebels. We have been treated as criminals even though we are alerting people about the climate emergency, for the sake of the planet and human health.
There was this new call for civil disobedience in Zurich. I couldn’t help but respond. The question of the usefulness of the action was secondary, then it was legitimate. That was enough for me. When we are affected by the collapse of life - practically organized by our western civilization and which has nothing to do with the natural cycles of life and death - there is only one thing to do: act. It is up to each one to find the way that suits him. Only when we stop saying, “It doesn’t matter anyway,” can things really change. And for those who think that Switzerland’s contribution to the current catastrophe is insignificant and that all efforts here are futile, it is enough to mention the fact that the Swiss financial center alone, if it were a country, would occupy the sixth place in the disastrous list of agents of climate change, particularly through its investments. Our government allows this to happen and as a Swiss citizen, I feel co-responsible.
I have a conviction. At the municipal and cantonal levels, the state of emergency has sometimes been recognized in the name of the climate emergency. All these judgments have been overturned at the federal level (notably in September 2021 in the “red hands” case on a Credit Suisse building). The obstinacy of the Federal Court to limit itself to a rigid reading of the legal text without taking into account the facts is criminal in view of the current situation. In my small way, I want to work for the legal recognition of the state of emergency, which would put pressure on the legislature. Time is running out. We cannot have the same patience as in other fights.
I am 46 years old and the mother of three boys between 7 and 11 years old, live in Zurich and am a translator and yoga teacher.
Pressemitteilung - Communiqué de presse - Comunicate stampa 06.09.2022
When I was 16 years old, I made my driver’s license during an exchange year in Australia. After my return, I felt very cool to be the first student to drive up to school in my car. I took five intercontinental flights, even a weekend trip to London, and ate as much meat as I could (afford) - yes, often in fast food chains. So maybe you could say that I was just a normal teenager, completely focused on myself.
It was only during my studies that I gradually became aware of my tremendous privileges as a well-off citizen in a democratic republic. In the process, I have developed a strong sense of responsibility towards the community and, as my understanding grew, towards all humanity and all life on our planet.
Consequentially, my two children today have to grow up without a car, do not have any stories to tell about air travel, and eat meat regularly but only a little. How poor!
Furthermore we have totally renovated the hundred-year-old house in which we live in in terms of energy consumption and equipped it with a photo voltaic system, so that my ecological footprint is only just over one part of the planet. So maybe you could say that I’ve become an exemplary good person in the meantime? - I don’t give a damn and it’s certainly not true.
The reality is that the community, the majority of which cannot afford home ownership, has subsidized this increase in value of my private property with a five-figure contribution and the tax authorities have exempted me from taxes for two years. This redistribution from the bottom to the top is the only measurable effect of our climate policy to date. I have simply cashed in.
I have watched impotently for far too long as we drive the planet to the wall. And the Swiss climate policy has ensured that I could feel like a clean person in the process: “Not my fault, not my problem; let the others first…” As if the climate could still be saved with ’lifestyle’ cosmetics.
But that’s over now! I have seen enough: Politics obviously cannot and the economy doesn’t want to fix it. Those, like me, who peacefully and with full respect for the constitutional state agitate against this catastrophic ‘Je-m’en-Foutism’, are accused and locked away. The penal code requires civil disobedients who cannot bear the high costs of the proceedings, to be criminalized. I cannot accept this any more! - And thanks to the above-mentioned redistribution effect, I can now even afford to go through the procedure. So you support me on this journey, whether you like it or not. Could still be more …
My name is Mikhail Rojkov. I am 26 years old. I am a recent graduate of the Geneva University of Art and Design (HEAD). I completed a Master’s research programme in critical studies there, after having completed a Bachelor’s degree in fashion design. Disillusioned with the fashion industry from an early age, but deeply attached to needlework, I have been navigating for the past six years in the troubled waters of this ruthless environment, which is in (cosmic) denial of the threats that weigh upon it and on the whole of life. Indeed, I remain convinced, since the beginning of my studies, that fashion is a gateway to understanding the societal and political issues of today and tomorrow. This does not prevent me from asking myself, more than once, before starting my Master’s degree (but also when I started it), whether it made sense to continue studying in a world that was running out of steam… The question no longer arose on the fringes of the October rebellion. I saw no alternative to my commitment, and left my classroom to come to Zurich. Nothing made more sense to me than that at that moment. The result: immediate arrest and 48 hours of pre-trial detention in a cell. Legal proceedings with several trials, the first of which took place on 8 June (the second will follow soon).
As a result of these events, I now find myself in a financial impasse, with a mental burden on my shoulders that I would not wish on anyone. Although I am a privileged person, the situation is such that I am unable to pay the charges against me. But the dismay is even more profound when it comes to accepting the charge against me. I refuse to accept that I am accused of having used coercion (according to Art. 181 of the Swiss Penal Code) and will go, if necessary, to the ECHR to defend my right to demonstrate.
I grew up at a time when scholarships were ridiculously low and made it impossible to consider studying if you didn’t live in a university town or didn’t come from a wealthy family. I compensated for the impossibility of choosing the job I would have liked with a rage to succeed professionally, in whatever I did.
I achieved this goal, but after 45 years of a fulfilling working life in an environmentally unfriendly sector, I realised the futility of what I had been doing all these years. Another life began for me the day I retired. Since then, I have devoted much of my time to climate protection.
I started participating in XR actions from 2020. My partner joined me a year later and we have participated in several actions together. But it was of course the October rebellion and its follow-up actions that really marked our membership of the movement. By getting arrested, we forced our society to punish us as whistleblowers while it treated multinationals, banks and polluters of all kinds with respect. GDP and the sacrosanct economic growth have become the ultimate religion of our time.
Only a general awareness can still make things happen. Global warming and the loss of biodiversity must become major themes, whether at school, in cafés or in families. And for action to follow, the Federal Council must declare a state of climate emergency, just as it did with Covid.
As citizens, we have few possibilities to put pressure on our authorities, as initiatives and referendums have already clearly shown their slowness and uselessness. The method we have chosen, civil disobedience, has the double advantage of making our concerns known and mobilising the media.
It is therefore through civil disobedience that I have chosen to shout out my revolt against our society of over-consumption and against politicians who choose to prioritise short-term economic interests and their re-election over the health and simple survival of their constituents; and finally to shout out my revolt against the passivity of my fellow citizens who, even when they recognise the urgency of climate protection, are not ready to change their behaviour.
I am 25 years old and a medical student at the University of Geneva. Contemplating the suffering that the next generations will face if we don’t do something about climate change scares me to death. Change must happen now before it is too late, and action against environmental degradation as a future doctor is inseparable from my studies. It is imperative to protect present and future generations from the consequences of our climate change actions.
I am fortunate to be able to see through my studies the future consequences of environmental degradation on health. By the time I become a doctor, it may already be too late to prevent them. It is in this context that I fight every day for the respect of the planetary limits: by participating in the political life of my community and my canton. But also through the associative and institutional environment within the University of Geneva. However, these ways have their limits, changes are too rare and come far too late. This is why I found myself in Zurich on 4 October 2021 to ask the Swiss government to act against the existential threat of climate change.
I did not decide to take part in a civil disobedience action for the sake of it, but because I have no choice: we have to try everything to save what can still be saved.
What do we want ?
What do we humans want ?
What do we want for our children, our future, our home / our planet ?
This is exactly the question I have been asking myself for several years !
We, my family and I, want to live… meanwhile even survive.
Because all reliable, independent and competent voices tell us, even warn us urgently, how bad things are for us, our future and our planet.
And what do we do ?
Still ignore all this or look for excuses, stall for time or talk ourselves into believing something in the hope that everything will not be so bad after all ?
Believe in technical achievements that have not even been invented, that are supposed to save us ?
Putting our trust in governments that have brought us this crisis in the first place ?
I mean deep in my heart: NO !
Enough is enough. Enough time lost !
We must act now to still have a real chance to survive, and we must now take our own happiness into our hands non- violently but firmly and prudently.
What do we want ?
Climate justice together with our fellow human beings in the global south, and we want it now and bang bang !!!
Would you like to support us? Here is how you can help us:
- Come to our trials (announce your presence directly in court on 044 248 21 53 or 248 21 11 or write to us [add link to strasbourgXR@riseup.net, 044 248 21 53 or 248 21 11
- Talk about it around you
- Take part in actions to support our group. Write to us at strasbourgXR@riseup.net
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