Police move on coal mine protesters barricaded in abandoned German village

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

The protesters formed human chains, made a makeshift barricade out of old containers and chanted “we’re here, we’re loud, because you’re stealing our future,” as police entered in helmets. Some threw stones, bottles and fireworks. Police also reported that protesters threw petrol bombs.

The demonstrators, wearing masks, balaclavas or bio suits, protested against the Garzweiler mine, run by energy company RWE (RWEG.DE) in the village of Luetzerath in the lignite district of the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

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

Green Party Economy Minister Robert Habeck called for no further violence after police and protesters clashed.

“Leave it at that — from both sides,” he told reporters.

Police say it could take weeks for the standoff to be resolved.

When the officers entered, some of the activists were sitting on the roofs or the windows of the abandoned buildings, chanting and shouting slogans.

Others were hung from wires and wooden frames, or sat in treehouses to make it harder for police to chase them away after a court ruling allowed the demolition of the village, now 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 protesters had taken up positions “because this is about whether the climate will cross the tipping point or not.”

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

The project has underlined Germany’s climate policy dilemma, which environmentalists say has faded into the background during the energy crisis that has hit Europe after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, forcing a return to dirtier fuels.

It is particularly sensitive for the Greens, who are now back in power after 16 years of opposition as part of Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s coalition government. Many Greens oppose the mine expansion, but Habeck was the face of the government’s decision.

“The empty settlement of Luetzerath, where no one lives anymore, is the wrong symbol in my opinion,” Habeck said regarding the demonstration.

HEAVY MACHINES

Birte, a 51-year-old midwife who joined the protest on Sunday, was in tears when 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 have urged protesters to leave the area and remain peaceful.

“It’s a big challenge for the police and we need a lot of special forces here to deal with the situation. We have aerial rescue specialists,” said police spokesman Andreas Mueller.

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

A Reuters eyewitness saw police using heavy machinery to dismantle high barricades.

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

RWE calls on the squatters to observe the rule of law and to peacefully end the illegal occupation of RWE buildings, factories and land.

The fallout from the Russian invasion of Ukraine prompted the Scholz government to change previous policies.

Those included mothballing coal-fired power plants and extending the life of nuclear plants after Russia cut off gas supplies to Europe in an energy deadlock that sent prices soaring.

However, the government has brought forward the closure date of all lignite plants in North Rhine-Westphalia to 2030 from 2038, fulfilling a campaign promise from the Greens.

Written by Paul Carrel and Matthias Williams; Adapted by Tom Hogue, Christopher Cushing, Conor Humphries and Alison Williams

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Principles of Trust.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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