Clearance of German village for disputed mine expansion reportedly nearing completion

BERLIN (AP) — A village in western Germany set to be demolished to make way for a coal mine expansion has been cleared of activists, except for a couple who stayed holed up in a tunnel, police said on Sunday.

The operation to evict climate activists who flocked to the site in the hamlet of Luetzerath began on Wednesday morning and progressed steadily over the following days. The police evacuated agricultural buildings, the few remaining houses and a few dozen makeshift structures such as tree houses.

On Saturday, thousands of people demonstrated nearby against the eviction and planned expansion of the Garzweiler coal mine. There were clashes with police as some protesters tried to reach the village, which is now fenced off, and the mine.

READ MORE: Greta Thunberg joins climate activists protesting coal mine expansion in Germany

Environmentalists say bulldozing the village to expand the Garzweiler mine would result in huge amounts of greenhouse gas emissions. The government and utility company RWE say coal is needed to ensure Germany’s energy security.

The regional and national governments, which both include the green environmentalist party, reached a deal last year with RWE allowing it to destroy the abandoned village in return for ending coal use by 2030, rather than 2038.

Greens leaders argue the deal meets many demands from environmentalists and has saved five more villages from demolition, and that Luetzerath is the wrong symbol for the protests. Activists reject this position.

Police said in a statement on Sunday that nearly 300 people had been removed from Luetzerath so far. They added that “the rescue by RWE Power of the two people in the underground structures continues; beyond that, clearance by the police is complete.

They said 12 people had been arrested in connection with Saturday’s incidents. The demolition of buildings in Luetzerath is already underway.

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, who joined Saturday’s large protest, took part in a small protest on Sunday, singing and dancing with other activists near the edge of the mine, German news agency dpa reported. .

Police said Thunberg briefly sat on an embankment at the edge of the mine and officers took her a few steps away after she failed to respond to calls to move for her own safety, dpa reported, adding that she then continued on her way.


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