LÜTZERATH, Germany (Reuters) – Around 6,000 demonstrators – including Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg – marched to the western German village of Lützerath on Saturday, according to police estimates, to protest the extension of an open pit coal mine.
Under an agreement between the government and energy group RWE, law enforcement began evacuating the former slated village this week, whose buildings have been occupied for two years by opponents of the expansion of a mining site.
Few activists were still settled in the area on Saturday, but thousands of people gathered to challenge this project, which in their eyes symbolizes the failure of the Berlin government in the fight against climate change.
Addressing the crowd perched on a podium, Greta Thunberg denounced a “betrayal for present and future generations”. “Germany is one of the biggest polluters in the world and must be held to account,” she said.
Approaching the village, the demonstrators ran into a barrage of police in riot gear, some of whom used batons to repel the protesters.
Regional police said on Twitter that they had to use force to prevent the crowd from crossing barriers and approaching a dangerous area near the excavation site.
Questioned on Saturday at the microphone of Deutschlandfunk radio, the Minister-President of the Land of North Rhine-Westphalia, the Christian Democrat Hendrik Wüst, declared that the energy policy was “not always clean” but that coal was more than never necessary to alleviate the energy crisis that Germany is undergoing.
(Report Petra Wischgoll, Andreas Kranz, Andreas Buerger and Max Schwarz; French version Jean-Stéphane Brosse)