Around 6,000 protestors, including Greta Thunberg from Sweden, gathered in West Germany to protest the clearing of a village to make room for the expansion and development of a controversial coal mining operation.
Protesters marched through Keyenberg near the demolished village Luetzerath and chanted: “Every village stays” & “You aren’t alone.” Police say that activists tried to breach barriers surrounding the Garzweiler coal mine with a group of people entering.
Thunberg stated to demonstrators that this was a betrayal for present and future generations. Germany is the largest polluter in the world and must be held responsible. The sign she carried was a cardboard sign that read “Luetzi bleibt” in German. It also included a short name for the village.
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They were met by police wearing riot gear and some using batons to push the protesters back as they approached Luetzerath. Some protesters were stopped from approaching the excavation’s edge by police, who claimed they had to use force.
Protesters had been occupying Luetzerath up until a massive police operation began to expel them this week after a court ruling allowed the expansion of the mine.
More than 1,000 police officers dressed in riot gear began clearing the barricades that protesters had prepared for weeks. On Thursday, one of the main buildings was cleared by police. Bulldozers quickly moved in to remove trees and other debris.
Police reported that 470 people left the site within the first three days, with 320 leaving on their own initiative. They said that there were no activists on the roofs or in any of the buildings remaining Friday afternoon.
German news agency dpa reported Saturday that 15 structures, such as tree houses, were still to be dealt with. There was also a tunnel where two people are believed to be trapped.
The area surrounding the village in West Rhine-Westphalia’s western state is rich in lignite coal. This low-grade fuel is particularly polluting as more must be burned to make power units. Around a fifth of Germany’s carbon emissions are caused by lignite.
Luetzerath is a problem for the German government’s climate efforts, which include the Greens as a partner in coalition. Activists claim that expanding the mine will increase greenhouse gas emissions. The government, however, stresses the importance of ensuring Germany’s energy security in the wake Russia’s invasion.
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