Protest camp bulldozed in German coalmine stand-off

Village of Luetzerath was occupied by climate activists

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German police were on Thursday dismantling a makeshift camp set up by climate protesters as a last stand against a new coal mine.

A wooden house was knocked down by a digger and protesters glued to windows were prised away by police as the hamlet of Luetzerath was cleared for demolition.

As barricades were knocked down, riot police climbed up to treehouses and into farm buildings occupied by protesters, some of whom were were escorted away.

A digger demolishes a wooden house put up by activists in Luetzerath. EPA

Although some activists left the site, many were still blocking roads on Thursday. Police said overnight that some demonstrators had thrown stones and Molotov cocktails.

Luetzerath, abandoned except for the protesters, is scheduled to be demolished to make way for more mining in Germany's western coal country.

It is a deeply unpopular move among climate activists who say burning more coal compromises Germany's climate-change commitments.

"If we want to see a world with less crisis, we need the fossil fuel destruction to be stopped," said Luisa Neubauer, a prominent German activist and one of the demonstrators in Luetzerath.

Police enter a building occupied by protesters trying to block coalmine expansion. Reuters

Swedish climate campaigner Greta Thunberg said she would join activists there this weekend.

The German government agreed to the enlargement of the open-pit mine to ease pressure on the energy grid after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and the order to clear the village has been upheld in the courts.

In exchange, five other villages were spared from demolition and the deadline for the end of coal power in Germany has been brought forward from 2038 to 2030.

The Green party, which opposed the mine while in opposition but is now in government, called for calm on Thursday while saying it sympathised with protesters.

"The pictures from Luetzerath can't fail to move us, because we've always fought against the sustained burning of coal," the party said.

Police tear down a treehouse put up by environmentalists. AFP

On Wednesday, Chancellor Olaf Scholz's spokesman Steffen Hebestreit suggested the images of a police stand-off were what the activists wanted.

"Debates about how we should better protect the climate and environment are important and part of a democratic discourse," Mr Hebestreit said.

But "as far as Luetzerath is concerned, there is an unambiguous legal position, and that should be respected", he said.

Many protesters were still opposing the clearance of Luetzerath on Thursday. AP
Updated: January 12, 2023, 3:06 PM
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