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Police arrest Hambach Forest activists

September 16, 2018

Dozens of activists have been arrested by police as authorities continue clearing out an ancient forest. An energy company says it needs to cut down the forest to mine coal and meet energy needs in western Germany.

A large treehouse in Hambach Forest
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/C. Gateau

German police on Saturday arrested 30 environmentalists protesting plans to destroy Hambach Forest in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

An Aachen police spokesperson said dozens of people were ordered to leave the area as an operation to clear out protesters entered its fourth day on Sunday.

Firefighters had to pump fresh air into a tunnel after at least five activists attempted to defy authorities by hiding out there. Firefighters said the makeshift tunnel was 5 meters (16.5 feet) beneath the ground.

Read more: Hambach Forest: Battleground for climate action

'Jeopardizes supplies'

The area is owned by German energy company RWE. The company wants to clear the forest to mine brown coal, which it says is necessary to guarantee fuel for coal-powered energy plants.

The occupation of Hambach Forest "jeopardizes supplies to nearby power plants and refining plants," RWE said in a statement. "Around 15 percent of North Rhine-Westphalia's electricity requirements are covered by coal supplies from the Hambach opencast mine."

Police officers wave their batons as they approach protesters
The police operation has been described by some as heavy-handedImage: picture-alliance/Zuma/J. Grosse

Continued resistance

But environmentalists have argued that Germany should be heading in the opposite direction and winding down consumption of coal.

Those who had occupied parts of the forest have noted that the woods are home to centuries-old trees and host a protected species of bats. The forest is said to be 12,000 years old.

Despite several attempts by activists to disrupt the operation, police are expected to continue clearing them from the forest on Sunday.

ls/sms (dpa, AP)

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