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The German farmers are greatly angry and there are a lot of them: An early report from the gathering great farmers' rally in Berlin

The German farmers are greatly angry and there are a lot of them: An early report from the gathering great farmers' rally in Berlin
Photo by Julia Koblitz / Unsplash

We are now a week into the great German farmers’ protest, and the main event is set for tomorrow in Berlin. 10,000 demonstrators are expected; the rally will begin at 11:30am. Speakers will include Johann Rukwied, President of the German Farmers’ Association, and also Finance Minister Christian Lindner. I doubt he will be well received.

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I’ve traveled to the capital to report on these events in person. The tractors are slowly collecting on the Street of 17 June, between the Siegessäule and the Brandenburger Tor. As of about 11am this morning, hundreds had already arrived:

A great many more are expected. Some farmers are concerned that police, who have established a marked presence on all the main arteries entering the city, may try to limit arrivals, but I can’t find any confirmation that that’s happening yet. Police continued to escort newcomers into the barricaded boulevard throughout the afternoon.

There’s a heavy police presence …

…but the mood is not threatening. There’s a clear sympathy between at least some of the officers and the demonstrators, and a great many ordinary Germans were on hand too. Some were just mothers with young boys eager to inspect the farm equipment, but also hundreds of people came by to chat with the farmers and show their solidarity.

The media, on the other hand, were conspicuous by their absence. I expect there will be much more press tomorrow, but today is a great opportunity to interview the participants in a relaxed environment. I guess it’s no surprise that our journalists aren’t very interested in doing that. I did see one camera crew from CNN Turkey. I stalked them for a few of their interviews, and all their questions seemed openly supportive. I also saw a few live-streamers with their cellphones on selfie sticks, one of them providing hostile commentary I guess to a leftist audience. Otherwise, there were no direct counter-demonstrators, although the Greens did show up on Pariser Platz this afternoon to demand yet again that Alternative für Deutschland be banned.

It’s very clear, both from the signs and the few brief conversations I had, that the protest has grown much, much bigger than the tax-hike on agricultural diesel that set it off. It has become a broader anti-tax protest and a statement of profound displeasure with the government in general. In contrast to most leftist protestors, the farmers are eager to explain their grievances, they welcome photos and are otherwise highly conscious of public relations. One of them had even set up a stand to hand out free sausages to passersby, as an excuse to engage ordinary people in conversation. Politically – and for better or worse – they’re very vocally centrist; talking about the AfD makes them nervous, though they’re eager to cite growing support for the party as evidence of dissatisfaction with the traffic light coalition. Given their high levels of organisation, this is probably due at least in part to simple messaging discipline. Rukwied has made many tedious statements distancing the protests from the “right” and the protestors on scene this afternoon seemed to support this line.

One man I talked to assured me that a core group of protestors plan to stay where they are well after tomorrow. He said a lot of them are veterans of earlier actions, including the Dutch farmers’ protest that culminated in 2022, and they’ve brought supplies for many weeks. I can confirm that they seem very well prepared.

Below I provide some pictures of their signs and placards, with English translations, to give you a flavour of the protest. I’ve cropped all number plates out of the photos, because some leftists are reporting these to police, in hopes that their owners will be fined for operating them on public roadways. (This is a pretty dumb campaign and unlikely to succeed, but better safe than sorry). You’ll have to take my word for it that they’re from all over Germany; I looked for the promised Dutch contingent but couldn’t find them, I suspect they have yet to arrive. If you’re reading this on email, you may need to click over to my website to access all the photos, as there’s too many of them for gmail and other email services.

“Want to save energy? Turn off the traffic light.”
“With out us, Ricarda would never be full.” The reference is to the obese Green co-chief Ricarda Lang.
“Political shit is not fertiliser!”
“Beware of storm and wind, and enraged farmers!!!”
“Break the Green wave, stop the traffic light.”
“There is no lord so high in the land, that he does not live from the farmer’s hand.”
“Failed your training? Become a politician.”
“OLAF! Did you forget your oath of office? ‘…for the good of the German PEOPLE!”
“No additional taxes for farmers! No more Green Deal and Farm to Fork! Food imports only according to our standards! Cancel free trade agreements and duty-free imports! Smash the monopolies in trade and the food industry! Ban genetic engineering and lab-grown meat! Affordable food is the most important prerequisite for social harmony. But not only on the backs of the farmers!”
“In chess the farmers make the first move, and in the end the king always falls!”
“They neither sow nor harvest, but they always know better.”
“Soon all wheels will stand still, because the government wants it that way!!!” Highlighted in red in the German word for government, Regierung, are the letters GIER – “greed.”
“Better death than slavery.”
“The scourge of our country.” The effigies are Olaf Scholz, Robert Habeck and Annalena Baerbock.
“The German trades have had enough! Because it’s not just about the existence of small businesses, but also about their employees and children! Dear traffic light, please for once do something right and collectively resign!!!”
“This car identifies as a tractor!” I saw various jokes of this nature posted on the cars taking part in the protest.
“You go to work, and the state takes 50%. You go shopping, and the state takes 19%. You go to get gas, and the state takes 70%. And if you ask why you have so little money, suddenly it’s Russia’s fault.” I’m happy to say that this guy is a fellow Bavarian, from Rosenheim.
“While the farmer is scapegoated, NGO bank accounts are overflowing!”
“Too much is too much. We are the people.”
“Agriculture and farmers are the pillars of the fatherland. So German people, be on your guard. Protect farming as your greatest treasure.”
“That’s enough. Our government has money for all the countries in the world, but none for its own people. If there are no more farmers, there’s nothing to eat. Away with the stupidest government of all time!”
“We don’t need sex. The traffic light fuck us every day.”

I’ll be posting a full account of tomorrow’s rally. Because my plan is to be there until the bitter end and document as much as possible, I may not be able to publish until Tuesday.

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