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Lützerath: Final activists forced from protest camp

January 16, 2023

The police have succeeded in clearing demonstrators from the site of a coal mine expansion in western Germany. Climate protesters have vowed to carry on the fight despite the setback.

Protestors leave Lützerath in western Germany
The activists called themselves 'Pinky & Brain' on social media, a reference to a cartoonImage: Ina Fassbender/AFP/Getty Images

A long-standing demonstration by climate activists opposing the expansion of a large coal mine came to an end on Monday, as the last two activists were taken by police from a protest camp in the village of Lützerath in western Germany.

Following several days of police evictions, the final two holdouts had been holed up from officers in a self-constructed underground tunnel.

Despite the setback, climate organizers have called for a massive protest in Lützerath for Tuesday. "Come today and just us actively and peacefully tomorrow," Carla Hinrichs, spokesperson for activist group Last Generation, wrote on Twitter.

Why is Lützerath important?

The hamlet, west of Cologne, has been targeted for the expansion of the Garzweiler lignite, or brown coal, mine by energy giant RWE for nearly ten years.

The 900 or so inhabitants were all resettled by 2018 and the village was scheduled for demolition.

Despite successive German governments promising to stick to a plan to exit coal by 2030, RWE was still given permission to move forward with opencast mining for the immediate future.

After losing the battle to protect the ancient Hambach Forest, which borders the open pit mine, from RWE's bulldozers, activists who had occupied the woods resettled in what was left of Lützerath.

Protest took the form of marches, lawsuits, and occupations of the village. According to organizers, some 35,000 people participated in the most recent demonstrations against the lignite mine expansion. Around 80 people occupied the protest camp.

Big coal mining machines seen in an open pit mine
The edges of the Garzweiler open pit coal mine need to be expanded to extract more coalImage: Florian Görner/DW

Clashes between protesters and police

Among those who had gathered at the site was Greta Thunberg, who called the police response to the protests "outrageous."

Last Wednesday, police began evicting protesters from the camp, leading to clashes between the two groups.

Activists and journalists uploaded videos to social media showing police using batons, pepper spray, and water cannons on protesters, as well as other examples of what they called excessive force.

The police have accused the activists of "violence," such as setting police barricades on fire, and said that at least 70 officers were injured during the eviction process.

Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faesar has called the protesters "irresponsible" for "putting not only themselves but also police in danger."

Economy Minister and leading Green Party politician Robert Habeck called the expansion of the mine a "sin" but said that the government wanted to "work towards keeping this sin as short as possible and not constantly prolonging it."

RWE has said that the final demolition of Lützerath will take place in the coming days.

Scientific consensus holds that the burning of fossil fuels is a major contributor to climate change, which will have catastrophic consequences for humanity due to increasing temperatures and biodiversity loss.

es/wmr (AFP, dpa)

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