Although the German government’s plan aims to phase out coal in North Rhine-Westphalia by 2030, a deal signed last year with energy giant RWE shows it plans to increase coal extraction in the short term. Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Therefore, one particular case attracted attention: the demolition of the German village of Lutzerath, so that a coal mine could be expanded.
In October 2022, after the last farmer left the site, people continued to be found there: climate activists who wanted to try to stop this expansion.
In wooden and metal houses hanging from trees, connected by a network of cables, they quickly asserted that they could resist for weeks if security forces tried to evict them.
But the inevitable must happen.
Why more charcoal?
The government and energy giant RWE argue that coal is essential to ensure Germany’s energy security.
However, a study by the German Institute for Economic Research questions the government’s stance after it was announced that other existing coal fields could be used, although the cost to RWE would be higher.
Another alternative is for Germany to increase renewable energy production, reduce demand through energy efficiency measures or import more coal or gas from other countries, according to the same study.
At what stage are activists’ work and protests?
German police today ended an eviction operation in the city of Lützerath after strong protests from environmentalists.
Speaking to the NTV chain, Aachen police spokesman Andreas Müller confirmed that the police evacuation operation in Lützerath had ended, but said the removal of the two men, who were barricaded in an underground tunnel, was still ongoing. A “rescue operation” carried out by RWE, the operator of the Karsweiler II mine.
“There are still no activists in the Lützerath area,” the police confirmed in a statement.
After all the buildings were vacated on Friday last week, the police also vacated, since the start of the clearance operation last Wednesday, 35 wooden structures, as well as 30 wooden structures built by activists.
In total, nearly 300 activists were evicted from Lutserrat during the operation, which included four actions to resist the eviction.
How were the demonstrations?
Since the start of the evictions, 154 criminal investigations have been opened.
Intervention Police began evicting climate activists from the village on Wednesday. As the police entered the small town, some stones and firecrackers were thrown.
On Saturday, a broad coalition of organizations against mining and the demolition of Lutserath staged a march, including Swedish activist Greta Thunberg.
In addition to the peaceful march, demonstrators attempted to break through police barriers to access the isolated village and the edge of an open-pit mine, where police used water cannons and pepper spray to make 12 arrests.
What led to the arrests?
Andreas Müller defended the actions of the security forces, arguing that the demonstrators on Saturday broke the police barriers and despite repeated appeals they did not avoid endangering the agents, which had “nothing to do with a peaceful protest, but rather by seeking a conscious and deliberate confrontation with the police”.
According to reports, more than 70 police officers have been injured and nine activists have been taken to hospital since the start of the operation, although no serious injuries have been reported.
About 30 police vehicles were vandalized and 32 security force car tires were slashed.
How is police intervention viewed?
Activists opposing the expansion of the coal mine accused police of violent suppression of the protest, which on Saturday degenerated into clashes with dozens of police and injured demonstrators.
A spokeswoman for the protest organizers, Indigo Drav, accused the police of “pure violence” at a press conference, saying agents attacked the activists “out of control” and hit them on the head.
The collective “Lützerath lebt!” Dozens of activists were injured on Saturday, some seriously. About 20 of them have been hospitalized, said Birte Schramm, a nurse for the activist group.
The evictions in Lützerath are politically sensitive for the coalition of social democrat Olaf Scholz, who co-rules with environmentalists, whom activists accuse of a betrayal of their duties.
Portuguese environmental group Climaximo also expressed solidarity with Lutzerath’s conservation activists in a statement.