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15 Jan, 2024 19:35

Thousands of tractors flood Berlin’s streets in massive farmer protest (VIDEO)

More than 8,500 people and some 6,000 vehicles participated in a major rally in the German capital, police said

Thousands of tractors clogged the streets of Berlin on Monday as German farmers staged a major rally to protest against agricultural policy changes planned by Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Cabinet. The government had earlier announced a reduction of tax breaks for the sector as well as plans to slash diesel subsidies.

Photos and videos published on social media showed hundreds of pieces of agricultural equipment moving through Berlin’s streets in tight columns or standing at the side of the roads. Farmers moved through the city with flashing lights and sirens on.

Some vehicles displayed banners and placards reading “Break the Green Wave! Stop the Traffic Light Coalition!”, referring to the term commonly used to describe Germany’s current government, made up of the Social Democrats, Free Democrats and the Greens. Other vehicles displayed slogans like “No farmers, no food, no future!”

Some roads in central Berlin were completely blocked by the protesting farmers, with tractors impeding movement in every vehicle lane.

A massive gathering also took place in front of the Brandenburg Gate, not far from the Reichstag, Germany’s parliament building. Drone footage posted on social media showed a large crowd occupying the square in front of the gate, many waving German flags.

The rally was attended by the head of the German farmers’ association, Joachim Rukwied, who said that the industry is ready to talk with the government but would not accept its current terms, which he described as “not fair.”

Rukwied said farmers won’t accept planned changes and called on the government to abandon the idea of scrapping tax breaks. “Enough is enough, too much is too much,” he added.

The rally was also attended by Finance Minister Christian Lindner, who maintained that the government could not take on any more debt and needed to respond to developments in the ongoing conflict between Kiev and Moscow, including by investing more in defense. He also promised that diesel subsidies would not be cut in one go but would be gradually phased out.

Linder was loudly booed and insulted by the protesters, and talks between coalition representatives and farmers’ association leaders ended without breakthroughs.

A total of 8,500 people and 6,000 vehicles took part in the Monday protest, police told the media. Some local reports put the number of protesters at “more than 10,000.” Meanwhile, the rally organizers told German media that the turnout could have been as high as 30,000.

The major demonstrations began last week, when farms began blocking roads and highways with tractors in a nationwide demonstration. Berlin announced the slashing of agricultural expenses not long after it announced plans to double its support for Ukraine to €8 billion ($8.76 billion) in 2024.

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