Climate activists block roads in Switzerland

Lausanne police officers arrest a climate activist holding a sign reading 'I'm scared my nephews will die from the coming climate catastrophe' during the 'Rebellion Of One' action organised by Extinction Rebellion. Keystone / Laurent Gillieron

Climate activists aligned with the Extinction Rebellion (XR) environmental movement created traffic disruptions on Saturday across Switzerland.

This content was published on May 8, 2021 - 20:36

"I am terrified by the state's inaction in the ecological disaster," said a student in the Plainpalais district of Geneva, before his sign was confiscated by police.

Calling their demonstration a ''Rebellion Of One,'' activists set up single-person roadblocks in about a dozen cities including Geneva, Lausanne, Zurich, and Bern.

The demonstrations come one month before citizens go to the polls to decide on a revised national CO2 law. 

It is impossible to determine how many people staged such single acts of protests, according to Keystone-SDA news agency.
"As we are working in a decentralised way, each group is organising itself independently," a coordinator in Zurich told the agency.

Angry motorists

In Geneva and Lausanne, several roads were blocked in the morning and afternoon by activists. Most of them were dislodged and fined by the police, sometimes after only a few minutes.

In Lausanne, one activist lasted five minutes before being taken away in handcuffs. Angry drivers and passersby dislodged another activist in the same city before police arrived. 

Among onlookers, reactions ranged from applause and support to annoyance and outright anger.

 "What do we care about the climate? There are all the cars waiting", a young woman in Geneva complained. Another contested the notion of "ecological catastrophe".


By sitting alone on the pavement, each activist wanted to show the vulnerability of individuals to global warming. 

"Behind every activist there are emotions," said one in Zurich. "Climate change did not go away with the pandemic".

The activists want the Swiss government to tackle climate change more quickly and to convene a citizens assembly on climate and ecological justice. 

They want the Federal Council (executive body) to declare a climate emergency and make the country carbon neutral by 2025 rather than 2050.

XR activists held protests in Britain last week and plan further actions in cities across 10 countries until June. 

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