Berliners rave against the motorway as extension threatens 20 cultural venues

Forget gluing yourself to the road in protest. On Saturday Berliners demonstrated for the climate by blocking a main road with a giant rave.

Smoke machines, glitter balls and drinks stands were set up amid the road signs and traffic lights, as thousands of clubbers, climate activists and local residents turned a kilometre stretch of main road in the eastern Berlin district of Friedrichshain into an outdoor dancefloor.

With the permission of Berlin authorities, local night-clubs blocked the busy road throughout Saturday afternoon and evening, pumping out music from impromptu stages.

The ravers want to stop Berlin’s main motorway, the A100, being extended along this route and ripping through this central urban neighbourhood.

The six-lane motorway would destroy some of Berlin’s edgiest night-clubs including About Blank, Wilde Renate, Else, Oxi, Void and Club Ost.

Autobahn nein danke!

Around 20 clubs and cultural venues would be demolished, as well as some homes.

“It would be a complete nightmare. It makes me so sad and angry,” says Selina, a clubber who lives nearby and goes out regularly here.

“So much of Berlin’s culture would be lost. It’s just not necessary to have a motorway in the centre of the city. We have such good public transport.”

Selina, a clubber and resident

Amperes, a DJ at About Blank who performed at the rave, says the protest is not just about the destruction of the clubs but also about the environment.

“The highway would bring extreme noise and pollution to the city. Honestly this is going to harm everybody. It’s a nonsense project no matter how you look at it.”

Critics argue that the clubs are only there because the area has been earmarked for the A100 extension for decades, meaning nothing else was built here.

Germany’s transport minister Volker Wissing and Berlin’s mayor Kai Wegner want to extend the motorway to deal with the city’s growing population and a rising rate of car ownership.

They say it will help traffic flow around the city centre rather than through it.

Protesters hold signs with A100 crossed out

But activists point to studies indicating that more roads simply lead to more cars.

Jams today, more jams tomorrow

They argue that extending the A100 into eastern Berlin would bring even more traffic into an already congested centre.

The five-kilometre stretch of highway will cost an estimated €1bn ($1.08bn; £806m) and they want that money to go to public transport, bike paths and better pavements.

“Most people my age in Berlin think it’s a really stupid idea,” says Clara, a 21-year-old student and spokesperson for Fridays For Future.

“This is the most expensive motorway project in Germany.

“For that money you could build a bicycle lane from Berlin to Beijing. It’s completely insane to invest in this project.”

The A100 is one of Germany’s busiest motorways and encircles much of central western Berlin, and the hum of traffic is a constant background noise in some western districts.

Building the highway started in West Berlin in 1958, when the city was divided between capitalist West and communist East – initially with the hope that it would one day be a ring road if Berlin was ever reunified.

The Autobahn was part of West Germany’s utopian post-war ideology of a modern capitalist metropolis: the car would be king and concrete highways would smooth over the scars of a city traumatised by war.

Underground resistance

After German reunification in 1991 Berlin had the challenge of bringing together the transport systems of East and West and planning on this extension began in 1999.

The ravers fighting motorways with music say this is no longer the 1990s, let alone the 1950s.

The protest is part of a ferocious ideological battle over the car in Berlin.

Conservative, liberal and far-right politicians want better roads and more rights for drivers.

Greens and left-wingers say this undermines climate change goals and that Berlin is out of step with other western cities, which are trying to limit not encourage car use.

Elisabeth Steffan of About Blank

“This battle represents the tensions in the city and within German politics,” says Elisabeth Steffen, spokesperson for About Blank, one of the clubs threatened by the motorway.

“It’s a fight between progressives forces and some old white men in suits who still have not accepted that it is a different time now and that they need to build cities for the people who live in them.”

Saturday’s rave was not just about keeping Berlin cool. Many Berliners see protests like this as a fight over the future of their city.

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