Police press ahead with clearance of condemned German hamlet


Police pressed ahead Thursday with the clearance of a condemned village in western Germany, where activists are vowing to hold out against its demolition to make way for the expansion of a coal mine.

Officers resumed their effort after working into the night to bring down activists from the roof of an abandoned farm warehouse in Luetzerath and disentangle another from the remains of a car.

Aachen police chief Dirk Weinspach, whose force is in charge of the operation, told ZDF television that more than 200 activists had already left the site voluntarily. The clearance of the hamlet's warehouses should be concluded on Thursday, then police can tackle tree houses built by the protesters and Luetzerath's remaining houses, he added.

"This will go step by step and with great calm and prudence," Weinspach said.

The operation to evict climate activists holed up in Luetzerath kicked off on Wednesday morning, with some stones, fireworks and other objects thrown at advancing officers but no major violence. Most of the protest was peaceful.

Luetzerath has become a flashpoint of debate over Germany's climate efforts.

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.

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.

The regional and national governments — both of which include the environmentalist Green party — reached a deal with RWE last year allowing it to destroy the abandoned village in return for ending coal use by 2030, rather than 2038.

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