Protesters were seen holding placards reading “STOP SUV,” “SUV not cool” and “we can’t replace our lungs.”
Others were seen displaying banners calling for a “Verkehrswende” or a transport transition; a reference to Germany’s planned shift towards renewable energy sources, or “Energiewende.”
Police reported that around 15,000 people, including many cyclists, took part in the march, according to Reuters. Greenpeace, one of the protest organizers, said that as many as 25,000 people were involved, including around 18,000 cyclists.
“An IAA in this form will most certainly not exist anymore. The days when VW, Daimler and BMW and co. celebrated their destructive tin cans without any interruption are over,” she said.
Along with Greenpeace, many different climate groups were present at the protest, including Friends of the Earth and Extinction Rebellion. Thousands of cyclists also took part in the “Sternfahrt” or “Star Ride,” which involved them blocking key motorways on their way to the protest.
“Only about a quarter of the newly introduced vehicles in Frankfurt are pure electric cars.”
Marion Tiemann, a Greenpeace transportation expert, warned that Chancellor Angela Merkel could “no longer sit by and watch as car executives put on green crowns, while continuing to develop and sell climate-damaging diesel and petrol vehicles.”
Ernst-Christoph Stolper, deputy head of Friends of the Earth Germany, said: “Enough to policies that prioritize cars in our cities. Pedestrians and cyclists need to conquer the urban spaces that belong to us.”
Tina Velo, another Sand in the Gearbox spokeswoman, said: “The transportation policy of Andreas Scheuer (Germany’s minister for transport and digital infrastructure) has lead to a standstill. Paying lip service to railway construction is not enough. Cars must make way for pedestrians, cyclists and trains in the street. The climate crisis can only be stopped by a radical change in traffic.”
The protest came only two days after Merkel opened the IAA motor show Thursday, calling on the industry to redouble its efforts to develop sustainable modes of transportation.
“High mobility will have its price, if more efficient, climate-friendly vehicles are not manufactured,” she said, while urging the car manufactures to invest more into the development of sustainable and affordable vehicles.
She warned, however, that we are still a “long way from having 100% renewable energy,” and said that meeting the 2030 European climate targets was a “Herculean task.”