The rally, being held in protest to government plans which farmers say are threatening their livelihoods, is having a major impact on traffic in the capital. Several roads and the Autobahn have been hit by huge traffic jams due to the overload of tractors.
Long convoys brought traffic to a standstill in the heart of the city’s government district, in the biggest display yet of farmers’ anger over agricultural policy changes agreed by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet in September.
More than 5,000 tractors as well as 10,000 farmers, made their way from across Germany to the Straße des 17. June, at the city’s famous Brandenburg Gate in the centre of Berlin, for Tuesday’s rally.
Organisers said as many as 8,500 tractors took part.
“First the plants starve, then the farmers, then you,” read one sign attached to a green tractor.
“Do you know who feeds you?” read another.
The government’s policy package includes plans to limit the use of fertiliser to tackle nitrate pollution in groundwater, and phase out the controversial weedkiller glyphosate by 2023 to protect insect populations.
Furious farmers say the environmental protection measures go too far and pose an existential risk to their farms.
Many are also fed up with the “farmer bashing” they say has cast them as villains in the fight against climate change.
“I’m feeling less and less confident about the future,” 24-year-old farmer Rene Wessler told AFP at the protest.
Residents in the capital were urged to leave their cars at home. There was also disruption to bus and tram lines.
Convoys, some up to 20 kilometres long, were seen early in the morning travelling along roads.
On Tuesday morning the exits at Tempelhofer Damm, Kaiserdamm and Beusselstraße on the southern city Autobahn were closed. In addition, the Victory Column and the Straße des 17. Juni between Brandenburger Tor and Ernst-Reuter-Platz have been shut. Parts of Kaiserdamm and Bismarckstraße were also closed to regular traffic.
Drivers were facing 50 minute delays on Heerstraße, where traffic was also congested due to the rally.
First tractors arrive for rally
Brandenburg police said a total of 5,095 tractors are involved in the protest.
The first farmers arrived with their vehicles at Brandenburg Gate in the early hours of Tuesday.
Another 1,825 tractors followed early Tuesday morning from Brandenburg. In Perleberg alone, according to the police, almost 550 farmers spent the night with their tractors at a meeting point. “There are 1,000 vehicles on the route from Perleberg to Nauen, which we are leading to Berlin,” a police spokesman said in the morning.
More and more vehicles joined the queue, causing major traffic disruption.
Police recorded two accidents caused by drivers overtaking. They urged people to be careful on the roads.
The demo is the latest in a series of protests by farmers in Germany. They are being organized by the movement Land schafft Verbindung (countryside creates connection) as well as the German Farmers’ Association and the alliance Forum Natur.