How the activist beats the police with a tube of superglue

With a brush and sunflower oil, the hand of a climate activist in Berlin who has stuck to the street is loosened. ‘Anklebt, vorsicht’, says the hand.Picture Christian Mang/Reuters

Caring, attentive and intimate. These are not usually the words used to describe contact between activists and the police. Yet those are exactly the three words that come to mind when looking at this photo by German freelance photographer Christian Mang. He did it this week during a climate protest by Extinction Rebellion in Berlin. For four days, protests were held in various parts of the city against the German government’s decision – albeit forced by the war in Ukraine – to keep coal-fired power plants open longer, pipelines and to build a liquefied gas terminal. And while the use of fossil energy should be accelerated, the action group believes.

On Monday, September 19, around fifty activists gathered on Unter den Linden, one of the most famous streets in Berlin, to do what Extinction Rebellion often does: to disrupt public life by sitting in the street. In this way, they demand attention for their message, from politics and the public.

They are increasingly using glue in their actions. Just look at what is written on this hand: ‘Anglebt, vorsicht’. It’s a warning to the police, who will soon be clearing the street: be a little careful with me, I’m stuck on the road with superglue.

That message seems to have been understood. With the precision of an archaeologist freeing an ancient artifact from the earth, the hand of the activist is loosened here. That stain on the asphalt, it’s sunflower oil. Have the Berlin police standard with them for this kind of action. Like a brush, chisel and hammer. The last two are necessary if cement has been stirred through the glue. It will take you a few hours to get it off.

This is the delay that the activists are after. Stop time for a while. Longer downtime means you pay more attention to your business.

Christian Mang took a picture of that Monday, as can be concluded from the series he shot for Reuters. At Potsdamer Platz, he captured activists climbing a homemade pink mini derrick. How three officers pulled an activist, the middle officer grabbed him right in the face, while the other two held each arm.

These are images that we have seen more often in climate action.

Still, Mang calls the atmosphere at Potsdamer Platz and Unter den Linden pleasant. More relaxed than during other demonstrations where he was present as a photographer. On Unter den Linden, he took pictures of dancing and singing activists with jerry cans on their heads, the things you use for a stock of petrol if you run out into the street. He took pictures of people holding a banner saying: ‘Change the system now!’, and of an elderly woman being carried away by the police.

So here too: business as usual. It is difficult for a photographer to come up with a new, surprising angle for this kind of campaign. You prefer to come home with one image that makes all the others redundant.

The scene that Mang saw almost towards the end of the demonstration is a gift from that point of view. He had hoped; on a previous occasion he had arrived too late, the police had already relieved the protester and could only photograph a print of a hand. Here he is standing on top of it with his lens. He has left out everything that causes distraction: who is holding those hands, what else is going on around them.

Why? Because two hands were enough for him to visualize the two parties who ended up in a kind of ritual dance during demonstrations: the activists who want to disrupt as far as possible, the police who are tasked with putting an end to this as soon as possible possible. possible to make.

It took five minutes for the glue to come off. A delay of nothing, really. But Christian Mang saw it and recorded it. In this way, the activist trumps the police.

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