They want to make life miserable for SUV drivers. At night, environmental activists sneak into upscale neighborhoods and turn off-road vehicle valves. Their accusation: SUVs emit too much carbon dioxide. Now police are searching for the group calling themselves “tire extinguishers.”
Some drivers find it very annoying. ‘Tyre extinguishers’ activists sneak into off-road vehicles and squeeze the air out of the tires – to save the climate. What is the benefit other than reporting the perpetrators and causing problems for car owners? We searched in Zurich for “Lüftler” and found them.
A secret meeting place with masked people
The meeting point remains secret until the end. An activist picks up a Rundschau film crew from the train station and leads them to a park in a residential area of Zurichberg. A group of six climate activists meet there at midnight. The masked people have set themselves the goal of knocking air out of the tires of as many off-road vehicles as possible.
“We are doing this because politics has failed,” says Jian, an activist whose real name is not that. You want to remain anonymous. “SUVs are bad for the climate and people. They are unnecessary and dangerous. “That is why it is legitimate to respond in this way.” A woman shows us leaflets containing a confession letter and lenses in a plastic bag. You will place the lenses on the threaded tire valves. When the valve cover is closed, the lens presses on the valve – and the air comes out.
Activist: “This feels good.”
The group goes looking for off-road vehicles. We follow what is happening remotely. Masked people quickly find what they are looking for. One activist tinkers with valves, another makes grease. They shut down 75 cars that night. “This feels good,” one activist says afterward. “I was allowed to express my annoyance when people drive cars this way.” We ask you if you don’t care that affected drivers, for example, can’t get to work or can’t get to work until late. The answer: “It is more important.”
The police have no understanding of such behaviour. “For us, this is not a joke,” says Judith Hodel, spokeswoman for the Zurich city police. “In such cases, we investigate property damage and coercion.” Patients are advised to submit a report. “This is the only way we can learn more about the patterns and actions. This helps in the investigation.”
SUV driver upset: ‘Eco-fascism’
This is what Peter Kunzler did. His SUV’s tire was also flattened. Kunzler is a teacher and had his classes canceled all morning. “You think of eco-fascism – that’s a total delusion,” he complains. “They only cause trouble and economic damage.”
“Tire extinguisher” (German: “tyre extinguisher”) activists follow the tactic of civil disobedience. The movement is active in Australia, the United States, and large parts of Europe.
For the injured SUV driver Peter Künzler, it is incomprehensible that he cannot file a direct complaint against the “tire extinguishers” with the police. The group admitted to the crime in a letter of responsibility taped to the windshield of his car, Kunzler says. “That’s not possible,” says police spokeswoman Hodel. “If we cannot attribute the crime to anyone, we will investigate unknown persons.”
There are also groups in Basel that flatten SUV tires at night. There they also travel to neighborhoods where expensive cars park on the street.
More on the topic in «Rundschau”, on Wednesdays at 8:05 pm on SRF 1.
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