They stick themselves on the streets, throw mashed potatoes on paintings or, as they did recently, paralyze Berlin Airport: The “Last Generation” makes headlines almost every day. But who is behind the organization? One of them is Ingo Blechschmidt, a mathematics lecturer with a long career as an activist.
Since the beginning of the year, the activists of the “last generation” have repeatedly caused a stir. They cause traffic jams on the roads or paralyze airports, such as BER. They are met with a great deal of resentment for their forbidden actions, which are also dangerous for bystanders. The activists don’t care, they show their full names and faces at their illegal protest.
But while initiatives like Fridays for Future with Greta Thunberg and Luisa Neubauer have prominent faces and main organizers, the “Last Generation” is organized differently. Groups are distributed throughout Germany, which repeatedly act independently of one another. Despite this, according to the website, there is a “functional hierarchy” and “core group” that makes important decisions.
The “last generation” does not only consist of inexperienced young people who spontaneously decide to protest. Many of the members have been activists for a long time and know exactly how to network and market effectively.
So does Ingo Blechschmidt from Augsburg, who is entered in the imprint of the “Last Generation” as the owner of the website. The 32-year-old holds a doctorate in mathematics from the University of Augsburg and is working on his habilitation. He is now probably the most well-known face in the Augsburg climate scene, not least because of his co-founding of the “Augsburg Climate Camp”.
Since July 1, 2020, the camp has existed on the fish market next to the Augsburg town hall. There are protests against Augsburg’s climate policy, among other things, the activists are demanding an exit from the coal industry by 2023. There are mixed reactions to the action in Augsburg. For example, Mayor Eva Weber accused the demonstrators of being unwilling to compromise and ignoring the reality of life for Augsburg’s citizens.
Blechschmidt told FOCUS Online that he wanted to take on “legal responsibility” especially for younger climate activists. “I try to keep their backs free.” For example, when the police arrived in Augsburg to secure alleged stolen goods from the climate camp. The activists had previously stolen edible food from supermarket bins. However, this so-called “container” is considered theft in Germany. Blechschmidt and his comrades-in-arms had publicly announced that they wanted to distribute the food to the needy at the climate camp.
Blechschmidt also caused a stir in the forest box near Munich. When several thousand trees were to be felled here for a gravel pit, he and other activists built tree houses and occupied the forest. When the SEK ended the protest, Blechschmidt had to spend a night in detention and then stayed in the background for the time being. “One night in the cell was enough for me,” he told the Augsburger Allgemeine at the time.
Blechschmidt ended up in court when Augsburg police officers accused him of defamation. During a raid near the climate camp in June 2021, police officers only checked young dark-skinned men. Since they did not know the status of the investigation, the climate activists considered the control to be racially motivated.
Blechschmidt voiced this accusation over a loudspeaker truck in the camp, so that around 150 people heard the announcement. The police officers felt their honor had been violated and went to court. There, Blechschmidt was sentenced to a fine of 1,200 euros, reports the Augsburger Allgemeine.
Because of Blechschmidt’s experiences, he also came into contact with the “last generation”. “Through the camp, the various climate justice initiatives in Augsburg grew together,” he says. And so members of the “Last Generation” asked him to take over the telephone service.
The phone calls – up to ten a day during campaign phases – are “very enriching and offer many opportunities” for him. On the phone, he mainly answers questions about the scientific background to the climate crisis or accepts tips for forms of action.
But in recent weeks, the “Last Generation” has had to take more and more severe criticism. An ambulance in Berlin came too late to the scene of an accident. The cyclist who crashed died. Blechschmidt reports that he took a particularly large number of calls during those days. Regarding the criticism of the actions, he says that “professional politicians in particular would use the terrible accident as an instrument” “to distract from their own responsibility”.
For Blechschmidt, a “contemporary traffic policy” would be necessary to ensure safe road traffic in the future. However, politicians across party lines have now distanced themselves from the actions of the “last generation”, and there has also been criticism from the Greens.
“But there was a change a few days ago,” says Blechschmidt. In the meantime, he has mainly received positive calls from people who want to get involved. He sees the reason for this in the changed reporting, which would no longer only focus on the form of the protest actions.
He himself wants to continue to get involved and work on his habilitation at the same time. Sometimes he succeeds more, sometimes less. But: “Mathematical ideas came to me when I was defending a forest in a tree house and was waiting for the SEC to clear it out.”