Greta Thunberg joins anti-coal activists to save German village


LÜTZERATH, Germany, Jan 14 ― Climate activist Greta Thunberg and thousands of demonstrators marched in a large-scale protest in Germany on Saturday against the demolition of a village to make way for an open-cast coal mine extension.

Crowds of activists marched on the hamlet of Luetzerath in western Germany, waving banners, chanting and accompanied by a brass band.

Luetzerath ― deserted for some time by its original inhabitants ― is set to disappear to make way for the extension of the adjacent open-cast coal mine, one of the largest in Europe, operated by energy firm RWE.

AFP saw protesters arriving in buses, holding banners that read slogans such as “stop coal” or “Luetzerath lives!”

Thunberg marched at the front of the procession as demonstrators converged on the village, showing support for activists occupying it in protest over the coal mine extension.

Some clashed with police who were trying to move the march away from Luetzerath, which is surrounded by fences.

Climate activist Greta Thunberg joins the activists protesting against the expansion of the Garzweiler open-cast lignite mine of Germany's utility RWE to Luetzerath, in Keyenberg, Germany, January 14, 2023. ― Reuters pic

Climate activist Greta Thunberg joins the activists protesting against the expansion of the Garzweiler open-cast lignite mine of Germany’s utility RWE to Luetzerath, in Keyenberg, Germany, January 14, 2023. ― Reuters pic

Final Stages of Evacuation

In an operation launched earlier this week, hundreds of police have been working to remove activists from the hamlet.

But between 20 and 40 climate militants were still holed up in the contested village late on Friday, a spokeswoman for the protest movement said.

Authorities said they were entering the final stages of evacuating the activists. In just a few days, a large part of the protesters’ camp has been cleared by police and its occupants evacuated.

German press, quoting the police, reported that around 470 activists had been removed from the village since the beginning of the evacuation.

Demolition works were progressing slowly on the buildings that had been emptied, while surrounding trees were felled, an AFP journalist saw on Friday.

Large numbers of protesters ― Thunberg among them ― had assembled on Saturday close to the village, which has become a symbol of resistance against fossil fuels.

“Against the evacuation ― for an end to coal and climate justice,” is the rallying call for the protest.

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg holds a sign, as activists protest against the expansion of the Garzweiler open-cast lignite mine of Germany’s utility RWE, in Luetzerath, Germany, January 13, 2023. ― Reuters pic

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg holds a sign, as activists protest against the expansion of the Garzweiler open-cast lignite mine of Germany’s utility RWE, in Luetzerath, Germany, January 13, 2023. ― Reuters pic

Energy Crisis

Police reinforcements have come from across the country to participate in the forced evacuation.

Organisers are hoping that tens of thousands will attend, while police have said they expect around 8,000.

In the village, many of the activists have built structures high up in the trees, while others have climbed to the top of abandoned buildings and barns.

Likewise, activists said they had dug a tunnel under the hamlet in a bid to complicate the evacuation effort.

The movement has been supported by protest actions across Germany. On Friday, masked activists set fire to bins and painted slogans on the offices of the Greens in Berlin.

The party ― part of Germany’s ruling coalition with Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats and the liberal FDP ― has come under heavy criticism from activists who accuse it of betrayal.

Following the energy crisis set off by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the government has brought old coal power plants back online.

Officials also signed a compromise deal with RWE that made way for the demolition of Luetzerath but spared five nearby villages.

The energy firm also agreed to stop producing electricity with coal in western Germany by 2030, eight years earlier than previously planned. ― AFP



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