Farmer power brings Germany to a standstill: What is allowed, what goes too far?

Published On: 08.January.2024Categories: Legal2 min read
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Nora Wölflick writes about interesting, topical issues for the Love & Law Blog at Recht 24/7.

Revolt on wheels: Farmers’ protests roll through the country

An unusual movement began on Sunday evening: Farmers set off in their tractors, destination Berlin. This scene marks the start of a week of protests that has the potential to become one of the largest post-war protests in Germany. But what is behind this nationwide uproar?

Legal gray areas: How far can protests go?

Protests are a fundamental right in a democracy, but what about when freeways are blocked? In general, the right to freedom of assembly in Germany is protected by the Basic Law. However, public safety and order must be maintained. Freeway blockades are a sensitive issue, as they not only make a strong political statement, but can also pose considerable risks to traffic and public safety. Farmers also have no more rights than any other citizen or demonstrator. A highway blockade would therefore initially be illegal and the farmers would have to fear fines and claims for damages, much like the climate stickers.

Everyday school life and traffic – chaos takes its course

From Schleswig-Holstein to Bavaria, the effects of the farmers’ protests are manifold. In some federal states, pupils who miss lessons due to blockades are excused. This situation raises questions about the rights and obligations of pupils and parents. There is the threat of extensive traffic jams and traffic obstructions on the roads, a challenge for commuters and logistics. Especially in North Rhine-Westphalia, where the highway network is already reaching its limits, the “traffic super-GAU” could become a reality. The following applies here: if you are unable to get to work or school due to a farmers’ protest, you will not face any legal disadvantages due to force majeure and the fact that you are not at fault.

Conclusion: Between law and protest

The farmers’ protests in Germany are a prime example of how civil rights, public order and individual freedoms interact with each other in a complex dance. While the right to demonstrate and peacefully assemble is indisputable, the boundaries of this right, especially in actions such as highway blockades, are not always legally clear. In this dynamic situation, it is crucial to find a balance between expressing political opinions and maintaining public order and safety. As with the climate stickers, the courts will be very busy in individual cases.