According to police estimates, roughly 6,000 protesters, including climate activist Greta Thunberg, marched through mud and rain on Saturday against the expansion of an opencast lignite mine in Lutzerath, Germany.
German police disperse protesters in showdown over coal mine expansion
A deal was struck between RWE and the government that allowed the energy company to destroy Lutzerath in exchange for its faster exit from coal and saving five other villages.
“This is a betrayal of present and future generations… Germany is one of the biggest polluters in the world and needs to be held accountable,” Thunberg said on a podium, after she marched with a cardboard sign saying in German “Lutzi stays”, using a shortened name of the village.
A police riot gear-clad police force confronted the protesters nearing the village, and batons were used to fend them off. Police in the region said on Twitter that they had used force to prevent people from breaking through barriers and nearing the danger zone.
The police cleared out protesters from buildings they have occupied for almost two years in an effort to stop the expansion of the nearby mine earlier this week.
While only a few campers remained underground and in treehouses on Saturday, thousands rallied to protest the mine, which activists say symbolises Berlin’s failing climate policy.
North Rhine-Westphalia’s president told German radio Deutschlandfunk on Saturday that energy politics are not always pretty, but coal is more important than ever given the energy crisis facing Europe’s biggest economy.
In an earlier interview with Spiegel, Economy Minister Robert Habeck said that Lutzerath was the “wrong symbol” to protest against, and that it is the last place where brown coal will be mined, not a symbol for more-of-the-same, but for the final frontier.
But protesters including Thunberg have said Germany should not be mining any more lignite and focus on expanding renewable energy instead. “As long as the carbon is in the ground, this struggle is not over,” said the climate activist in a somewhat convoluted appeal.