EXPLAINED: Who are 'Renovate Switzerland' protesters and what do they want?

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
EXPLAINED: Who are 'Renovate Switzerland' protesters and what do they want?
Environmental activists members of Renovate Switzerland block a motorway near Lausanne. Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

If you have been driving around Switzerland lately, chances are you were stopped in your tracks by people sitting in the middle of the road, preventing you and other motorists from driving on.


Despite its name, the traffic stoppers have nothing to do with renovating the roads they are sitting on, or Switzerland in general.

Instead, the group wants to draw the government’s attention to the environmental issues, most specifically calling for insulation of  one million Swiss buildings by 2040 in response to the climate and energy crisis.

They are demanding that the Federal Council urgently releases 4 billion francs to be used to train 100,000 people to undertake these renovations.

Where have the activists created roadblocks?

The group has been active since April; during October alone, they had disrupted traffic and caused bottlenecks in the centres or near motorway exits in Geneva, Zurich, Bern, and Lausanne — usually during the peak travel times. 


Each time they have been removed from the street by the police.

Similar actions are planned in coming days and weeks, according to Chloé Magnin, the organisation’s spokesperson.

She said the group “will persist in carrying out these operations until we receive a substantial response. As long as no measures are taken, we will continue because we no longer have a choice”.

How does the public react to these sit-ins?

While some may be supportive of the movement and the cause they are fighting for, the vast majority of those stuck in traffic are understandably annoyed.

They honk the horns, or get out of their vehicles and shout to the activists to move out of the way.

When police invariably arrives, some protesters glue their hands to the road’s surface, so as not to be forcibly removed.

The demonstrators are usually taken away within an hour, but it may take longer to get the traffic flowing.

Are there legal recourses against the sit-ins?

If you happen to be blocked by the activists, you should definitely not try to remove them yourself, but wait for the police to arrive.

But you do have a right to file a complaint against the activists in certain situations.

“However, the motorist must have suffered financial damage and be able to prove that this is due to the roadblock,” attorney Dominik Probst told 20 Minutes news platform.

For instance, if you were late to work or missed your train or flight because of the sit-ins, you can seek damages, filing a complaint against the organisation rather than individual activists, Probst noted.

So far, no motorists have taken legal action against the group.

READ MORE: Reader question: How can I find a good lawyer in Switzerland?







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