erkelenz On Saturday in Erkelenz, the police violently pushed back climate demonstrators who were trying to get to the edge of the opencast lignite mine. A police spokesman confirmed this. He cannot yet say anything about injuries or arrests because the operation is ongoing. Walking to the edge of the mine is life-threatening because the ground has softened due to constant rain and there is a risk of landslides.
The police used water cannons against demonstrators shortly before the sealed-off village of Lützerath in the Rhenish lignite mining area. A dpa reporter observed this on Saturday. Hundreds of demonstrators faced the police in front of Lützerath. From their ranks the cry “Off to Lützerath! Let’s go to Lützerath!” At a rally with thousands of participants, a speaker on the podium had previously asked the climate demonstrators to advance to Lützerath.
The police estimated the number of participants at 8,000 to 10,000, the organizers spoke of 35,000. The village of Lützerath, occupied by activists, has been cleared by the police since Wednesday so that Energiekontern RWE can excavate the coal underneath.
Thunberg calls for the defense of Lützerath – and criticizes the Greens
The Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg has called for the village of Lützerath not to be abandoned. “Lützerath is still there, and as long as the coal is still in the ground, this fight is not over,” said the 20-year-old in front of a large crowd.
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“You are showing clearly today that change will not come from the people in power, from governments, from corporations, from the so-called leaders,” she said. “No, the real leaders are here. It is the people who sit in the tree houses and who have been defending Lützerath for years now.”
Thunberg has also criticized the German Greens for their support for the demolition of Lützerath and digging up the coal lying beneath the village. Corporations like RWE should actually be held accountable for how they treat people. “The fact that the Greens make compromises with such companies shows where their priorities lie,” said the Swedish climate activist on Saturday in an interview with the German Press Agency in Erkelenz. She herself was never associated with a green party.
In the meantime, the evacuation continued in the Erkelenz district of Lützerath itself. Emergency services climbed trees on which activists persevered, as a dpa reporter reported. According to the energy company RWE, preparations were also underway to get two activists out of a tunnel. “The forces are very careful, no heavy equipment can be used here because that would endanger people in the underground soil structures,” said police chief Weinspach.
The police initially gave no information on the number of remaining activists. “We’re almost through above ground,” a spokesman said in the morning. There are about 15 “structures” remaining, including tree houses and shacks. The demolition of the already cleared buildings continued on Saturday. According to a dpa reporter, this included the former home of farmer Eckardt Heukamp. He had been the last farmer in Lützerath.
Greta Thunberg said she knew Lützerath from a previous visit, but it was completely different then. “It’s a completely different place now.” Regarding the crater landscape of the immediately adjacent Rhenish lignite mining area, she said: “It really does look like Mordor. It shows what people are capable of under the wrong conditions. It shows what we are fighting against, what we are trying to prevent.” In JRR Tolkien’s novel The Lord of the Rings, Mordor is the evil realm.
Thunberg had already visited Lützerath on Friday and denounced “police violence”. Aachen police chief Dirk Weinspach had vehemently rejected the criticism. On the contrary, the police acted with extreme caution, he said. When asked if she maintained her criticism of the police, Thunberg told dpa: “Police violence means different things in different countries. But there have been several instances where police have endangered the lives of activists.”
The Green Youth also criticized the actions of the police. “The reports we are getting from the village cannot be justified,” said the state spokeswoman for the Green Youth of North Rhine-Westphalia, Nicola Dichant. “Images of police operations that endanger activists massively, paramedics who are thrown out of the village by the police, and the press who are not allowed to observe. That is the opposite of a de-escalative operation.”
The police have been clearing Lützerath, which is occupied by climate activists, since Wednesday to give RWE the opportunity to demolish it and excavate the coal underneath. Leading Green politicians such as Federal Minister of Economics Robert Habeck and his NRW colleague Mona Neubaur are behind this decision. They say the coal is needed to maintain energy security. The demolition of Lützerath is part of a compromise that, on the other hand, provides for an eight-year earlier phase-out of coal.
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