The ongoing tactic of social movements blocking roads

I saw news earlier this week about efforts by climate activists in Germany to draw attention to their cause:

Photo by Life Matters on Pexels.com

Climate activists on Wednesday blocked roads leading to Germany’s three biggest airports, gluing themselves to the ground before police arrived.

Members of the group Uprising of the Last Generation said they wanted to disrupt cargo and passenger traffic at the airports in Frankfurt, Munich and Berlin.

The group has demanded that the government take measures to end food waste. It argues that throwing away vast amounts of usable food contributes to hunger and climate change.

Past protests involving the blocking of roads and ports have drawn criticism from officials across the political spectrum.

The last sentence in the portion above is telling. This particular technique draws criticism from all sides because it effectively complicates one of the most important assumptions of Western life: drivers should be able to get where they want with minimal disruption.

It may be one thing to have a crowd or protest so large that it takes over streets and roadways. It is another matter to more deliberately block main arteries and highways. Residents depend on these, truckers depend on these, emergency vehicles depend on these. Whether it is Black Lives Matters protestors or truckers in Ottawa, Canada or climate change activists, interrupting the normal flow of people and goods “works.”

I put “works” in quotes because it is less clear that this tactic leads to significant change. It may draw attention and disrupt daily life. If it angers many of the people who might align with the movement, is this helpful? Is media attention the primary focus? If governments find ways to clear roadways – and many communities have guidelines about applying for permits to hold parades/rallies/protests and this includes where these can take place – is this a win in the end?

I would not expect this tactic to go away soon.