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Lützerath eviction: German police drag climate protesters from coal village

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Police in riot gear have started to drag climate activists away from an abandoned village in western Germany they have occupied for months.

Protesters barricaded themselves in to prevent Lützerath from being swallowed up by the nearby Garzweiler open coal mine.

Some activists threw stones and pyrotechnics at police officers as they began to clear the camp.

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Protesters climbed into treehouses to make the eviction more difficult.

The village is owned by energy firm RWE, and the last resident moved out over a year ago.

There were violent scuffles as police wearing riot gear moved into the village early on Wednesday to evict the protesters. More than 1,000 police from across Germany took part in the operation.

They dragged some activists, many wearing scarves to mask their faces, away across the muddy ground. The situation was then described as predominantly peaceful as police knocked on doors in the village and asked people to leave.

Some of the protesters have formed human chains, others have taken to treehouses or the rooftops of the village.

Lützerath is literally on the verge of being swallowed up by the vast open coal mine on its doorstep.

RWE operates the mine and plans to extend the works. A huge mechanical digger stands metres from the treeline at the edge of the village.

Image source, Reuters

Although all the residents have left, several hundred climate protesters are determined to stop RWE getting at the lignite that lies underneath Lützerath.

Some have been here for more than a year, squatting in the abandoned brick buildings. And it will probably take police weeks to remove all the barricades and tree houses.

“The coal under here is not needed for anything just for RWE to make more profit,” one activist told the BBC.

Two protesters, Anna and Kim, had chained their hands inside a barrel filled with concrete.

“I feel hopeless and sad because most probably this village will be gone,” said Anna. “At the same it feels powerful to see how many people are here and supporting this.”

Activists Anna (L) and Kim have been at the site for a week and are now chained to a barrel filled with concrete

Days before the police moved in, the activists were busy reinforcing barricades and preparing piles of bricks. Some were practising their rope-climbing skills.

A series of treehouses, perilously high in the tall trees, are linked by rope so that the activists can move around above the heads of the police.

Activist Dina Hamid rejected the assertion of authorities, that Germany needed the lignite to meet its energy requirements, now that it could no longer rely on supplies from Russia.

“The climate crisis is now, and we know that coal should have been stopped years ago.”

One thousand police took part in the operation from across Germany

Lützerath is likely to be the last German village lost to a coal mine.

The government has pledged to bring forward the phase-out of coal in North Rhine-Westphalia, the state in which the mine lies, to 2030. The national target is 2038.

RWE and the regional ministers have agreed to limit the extension of the mine; plans to demolish and excavate five other villages have been scrapped.

All the residents have left Lützerath and only the protesters remain

But the battle for Lützerath is not yet over. The activists are pinning their hopes on a German law that prohibits the felling of trees between February and September. That could, in theory, halt the planned excavation, albeit temporarily.

Lützerath is now surrounded by police officers, one of whom told reporters this morning that the site would be cleared.

Even so, the protesters remain determined to hold off the eviction, and what seems to be the inevitable fate of the village, for as long as they can.

Additional reporting by Sira Thierij in Lützerath.

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