Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,
My name is Bernhard Seidler, I am a doctor and work at the Institute for Bioethics at the University Hospital of Cologne. I have been following the protests by students and pupils in Lisbon and came across the police action at the Faculty of Humanities of the University of Lisbon (FLUL). It made me sad to see this. Portugal is a young democracy that still knows how fragile it is. I love Portugal. The Portuguese have to remind themselves every day how quickly democracy and the rule of law are endangered by the use of state violence. As a German, I know what I am talking about.
For what I understood, the students were protesting for their right on education for sustainable development, which is granted to all people by UNESCO and promised by the Portuguese state to its young people. The student’s demands are therefore legitimate.
As a means, they peacefully occupied the institution to which they addressed their legitimate demands.
Since they peacefully occupied with a legitimate request: Would it not have been right to seek dialogue with the young people and convince them of the university’s own position or, where there is no argument against their legitimate demands, to take them seriously enough for the students to feel that they are being taken seriously?
Doesn’t anyone in Portugal believe António Guterres’ observation that our society tends to hastily portray “climate activists as dangerous radicals”?
Already calling for the police intervention was a mistake on the part of the institution. It would be an even bigger mistake to hold it against the young people that they were peacefully standing up for a legitimate cause. What they did speaks of good character traits, of their concern for their fellow human beings and of the intelligence to realise that the climate crisis poses an extreme threat to Portuguese democracy. Not to absolve them of all blame would be morally wrong.