German riot police moved in this week to clear the hundreds of climate activists currently occupying the western German village of Lützerath in protest against the decision to mine much-need coal there.
More than 700 activists are now situated in the abandoned village in North Rhine Westphalia, whose residents have been relocated to make way for energy company RWE to mine the site for lignite.
The anti-coal brigade began occupying the village more than two years ago, with the number of protesters growing steadily in recent weeks. Activists are squatting in the empty houses, preparing barricades, and forming human chains as they prepare for authorities to follow through on an eviction order issued by a local court, which came into force on Tuesday.
More than 200 German celebrities pledged their support to the far-left activists in an open letter published by German newspaper Der Spiegel, and prominent Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg is expected to visit the site on Saturday, having already done so once in September 2021.
In footage circulating on social media, riot police could be seen facing off with masked protesters on Tuesday ahead of taking action to clear the site.
As riot police moved in to secure the area, they were met with a barrage of projectiles, including stones and Molotov cocktails, as scenes turned ugly.
Despite the initial opposition, a police spokesperson on Wednesday insisted the authorities are “very satisfied” with the clearance operation they say is now firmly underway.
“So far everything is going according to plan for the police. After a certainly mixed start this morning, where we also saw some stones thrown and Molotov cocktails thrown, I would say the situation has calmed down significantly,” the spokesperson added.
Germany’s federal government on Wednesday strongly condemned any violent resistance from climate activists against the police trying to do their job.
“There was resistance today and also riots during the ongoing evacuation of the village. The federal government expressly condemns this violence,” said government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit in Berlin. “We have no tolerance for that,” he added.
He stressed that protests must be conducted “peacefully” and “within the framework of our laws,” telling activists in no uncertain terms that the evacuation of Lützerath “has to be accepted.”
The German government insists the new coal mine is essential to the country’s energy security as it seeks to wind down its dependence on Russian gas and oil.