LUETZERATH, GERMANY (AP) – Police in riot gear evicted climate activists from a condemned village in western Germany that is due to be demolished for the expansion of a coal mine.
Some stones and fireworks were thrown as officers entered the tiny hamlet of Luetzerath, which has become a flashpoint of debate over the country’s climate efforts, on Wednesday morning.
Police spokesman Andreas Mueller said the attacks on officers were “not nice” but noted that most of the protest so far had been peaceful.
He said police would stick to their tactic of trying to avoid any escalation by offering to let any activists who leave on their own accord to do so without facing further police measures or prosecution. Still, some protesters complained of undue force by police and others said the scale of the police response with officers brought in from across the country and water cannons on standby was itself a form of escalation not justified by the peaceful protest.
At least one woman screamed in apparent pain as officers used force to remove her from a roadblock outside the village.
By Wednesday afternoon, dozens of activists remained camped out in Luetzerath, some in elaborate tree houses, as police slowly moved through the village clearing barricades and a communal soup kitchen.
Some activists read books or played accordion while perched atop three-metre tripods. A few sat or stood on the roofs of Luetzerath’s remaining buildings despite the chilly wind.
“I’m really afraid today,” Petra Schumann, a 53-year-old local who had been at the site for several days, said from a top-floor window of one of the few remaining houses. Schumann said she still held out hope of preserving what’s left of Luetzerath “until nothing is left standing; hope dies last”.
Environmentalists say bulldozing the village to expand the nearby Garzweiler coal mine would result in huge amounts of greenhouse gas emissions. The government and utility company RWE argue the coal is needed to ensure Germany’s energy security.
However, a study by the German Institute for Economic Research calls into question the government’s stance. Its authors found other existing coal fields could be used instead, though the cost to RWE would be greater.
Another alternative would be for Germany to increase production of renewable power, cut demand through energy efficiency measures, or import more coal or gas from abroad, the study found.
Citing the study and the urgent need to curb global carbon emissions, protesters refused to heed a court ruling last Monday that effectively banned them from the area.