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Greta Thunberg to join climate activists facing off with German police over a village sold to a coal mine

Clashes as police clear climate activists in coal standoff
Clashes as police clear climate activists in coal standoff 01:24

Berlin — German police said their methodical operation to clear hundreds of climate change activists from a tiny town that's been sold to an energy company to dig up for coal was going according to plan on Wednesday. As Sweden's high-profile climate campaigner Greta Thunberg said she would join the demonstrators squatting in the otherwise abandoned village, Day Two of the police's effort got off to a rocky start.

There were more violent clashes and even some Molotov cocktails hurled at police early Wednesday, repeating scenes that played out the previous day, but the Aachen police force said its clearance of the hamlet of Luetzerath was moving forward, and they described the scene there as predominantly peaceful.

Despite the clashes early Wednesday, which first kicked off when hundreds of police started pushing into the occupied village on Tuesday morning, the police reported no arrests or injuries. They have briefly detained people to record personal information, but there was no indication that anyone was facing charges as of late on Wednesday afternoon.

Police To Begin Eviction Of Luetzerath Activists At Garzweiler II Coal Mine
Police cart away an environmental activist from the settlement of Luetzerath, next to the Garzweiler II open cast coal mine on January 11, 2023, near Erkelenz, Germany. Andreas Rentz/Getty

The energy company RWE, which wants to excavate the lignite (brown coal) reserves under the village, has started erecting a roughly 1-mile fence around Luetzerath. RWE plans to demolish the village's homes and streets once it's cleared of climate protesters.

When the eviction operation began, police gave the activist-squatters a chance to leave the area without facing legal ramifications, and the force said many took advantage.

A spokesman said Aachen's police "welcome the fact that a large number of activists have decided to leave the area here peacefully and without resistance."

Some activists, however, climbed onto high platforms strung together deliberately to give protesters a place to avoid being dragged away from the site. Around noon on Wednesday, officers started using trucks with lift platforms to get the squatters off the structures.

Clearance of Lützerath
A demonstrator is lifted from a wire scaffold by police with the help of a lifting platform during the clearing of the village of Luetzerath, Germany, on January 11, 2023. Federico Gambarini/picture alliance/Getty

Some activists offered a soundtrack to the scene, playing guitars and pianos.

Officials had cleared some of the first buildings in the village Wednesday, with police bringing activists out of a former agricultural hall that was reportedly being used as a communal kitchen by the demonstrators.

Police had not yet entered Luetzerath's occupied homes, however.

As more barricades and fencing goes up around the site, it was expected to complicate and delay the eviction process, which police expect to take about a month.

APTOPIX Germany Coal Mine Protests
Police officers carry a demonstrator to clear a road at the village of Luetzerath, near Erkelenz, Germany, January 10, 2023. Michael Probst/AP

Roughly 300 to 400 activists were estimated to be in the village, with some small children among them.

"Due to widespread dangers in the area of operation, the Aachen police appeal to guardians to leave the area immediately with their children," the local police department wrote on Twitter.

A demonstration was announced for Saturday, and Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg said she would be in Luetzerath to attend.

Protests against the evictions, and Luetzerath being dug up as a coal mine, have also been announced in other German cities, including Munich and Hamburg.

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