Police intervene against coal mine protesters barricaded in an abandoned German village

Police intervene against coal mine protesters barricaded in an abandoned German village

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LUETZERATH, Germany, Jan 11 (Reuters) – Hundreds of police began clearing climate protesters from an abandoned village on Wednesday in a battle over the expansion of an open-pit lignite mine, underscoring tensions over Germany’s climate policy amid an energy crisis.

Protesters formed living chains, made a makeshift barricade out of old shipping containers and chanted “we’re here, we’re loud because you’re stealing our future” as helmeted police officers advanced. Some threw rocks, bottles and pyrotechnics. Police also reported that protesters threw petrol bombs.

Demonstrators wearing masks, balaclavas or biosuits protested against the Garzweiler mine, run by energy company RWE (RWEG.DE) in the village of Luetzerath in the brown coal region of the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

Climate activist Greta Thunberg plans to join the demonstration on Saturday, a spokesman for the environmental group Luetzerathlebt told Reuters.

Economy Minister Robert Habeck of the Greens called for an end to violence after clashes between police and protesters.

“Leave it that way — on both sides,” he told reporters.

Police say it could take weeks to resolve the standoff.

As the officers entered, some activists climbed onto the roofs or windows of the abandoned buildings, chanting and shouting slogans.

Others hung from wires and wooden frames or were locked in treehouses to make it harder for police to remove them after a court ruling allowed the demolition of the village, which is now otherwise empty of residents and owned by RWE.

Julia Riedel, who said she has been camping in the village for two-and-a-half years, said the demonstrators took their positions “because the question here is whether the climate will pass the tipping point or not.”

Police, who had water cannon trucks on standby, led and led some protesters away from the site.

The project highlighted Germany’s dilemma over climate policy, which environmentalists say has taken a backseat during the energy crisis that hit Europe after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine forced a return to dirtier fuels.

This is particularly sensitive for the Green Party, which is now back in power as part of Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s coalition government after 16 years in opposition. Many greens oppose the mine expansion, but Habek is the face of the government’s decision.

“The empty village of Lucerat, where no one lives anymore, is, in my opinion, the wrong symbol,” Habek said in relation to the demonstration.


Birte, a 51-year-old midwife who joined Sunday’s protest, was in tears as police led her away.

She said it was important for politically moderate citizens to attend the protest to show “that these are not just young, crazy, violent people, but that there are people who care.”

Police urged the protesters to leave the area and maintain peace.

“This is a big challenge for the police and we need a lot of special forces here to deal with the situation. We have air rescue specialists,” said police spokesman Andreas Müller.

“These are all factors that make it difficult to say how long this will last. We expect it to last at least a few weeks.”

A Reuters witness saw police using heavy machinery to begin dismantling the high barricades.

RWE said earlier on Wednesday that it would begin dismantling Luetzerath and had begun building a fence around the area.

“RWE appeals to the squatters to respect the rule of law and peacefully end the illegal occupation of buildings, plants and sites belonging to RWE,” RWE said.

The consequences of the Russian invasion of Ukraine caused The Scholz government will change course under previous policies.

These include firing up canned coal-fired power plants and extending the lives of nuclear power plants after Russia cut gas supplies to Europe in an energy conflict that sent prices soaring.

However, the government has pushed back the date when all brown coal power stations will close in North Rhine-Westphalia to 2030 from 2038, sticking with the Greens’ election promise.

Written by Paul Carell and Mathias Williams; Editing by Tom Hogue, Christopher Cushing, Connor Humphries and Alison Williams

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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