Police officers at a camp for climate activists in the town of Luetzerath, near Erkelenz, Germany, Thursday, January 12, 2023. Police have entered the confined village to evict climate activists camped out to prevent its demolition in the extension desss a coal mine. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
LUETZERATH, Germany (AP) — Police on Thursday went ahead with the eviction of a condemned village in western Germany where activists have vowed to stay to prevent it from being demolished in a coal mine expansion.
Authorities resumed work after working overnight to get several activists off the roof of an abandoned agricultural warehouse in Luetzerath and another from the wreckage of a car.
More than 200 environmentalists have already left the site voluntarily, Aachen police chief Dirk Weinspach, whose force is leading the operation, told ZDF television. The eviction of the warehouses should end on Thursday and then police will focus on several treehouses built by the protesters and houses remaining in the town, he added.
“This will go step by step and with great calm and prudence,” Weinspach said.
The operation to drive out the entrenched climate activists in Luetzerath began on Thursday morning, when some stones, firecrackers and other objects were thrown at the approaching officers, although without serious violent incidents. Most of the protest was peaceful.
Luetzerath has become the center of a debate about climate efforts in Germany.
Environmentalists say demolishing the town to expand the nearby Garzweiler mine would cause huge greenhouse gas emissions. The government and the electricity company RWE maintain that coal is necessary to guarantee the energy security of the country.
Some protesters denounced an excessive use of force by the police and others said that the scale of the police deployment, with officers brought in from all over the country and water cannons in reserve, was an escalation not justified by the peaceful protest.
The regional and national governments, which in both cases include the Green Party, reached an agreement with RWE last year to allow the destruction of the abandoned town in exchange for ending coal use by 2030 instead of 2038.