German police clear blockades at village condemned for mine

Jan 9, 2023, 11:32 AM | Updated: Jan 10, 2023, 8:07 am
The sun rises behind a lignite excavator at the Garzweiler lignite coal mine near the village of Lu...

The sun rises behind a lignite excavator at the Garzweiler lignite coal mine near the village of Luetzerath, Erkelenz, Germany, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023. The village of Luetzerath has to be demolished to expand the Garzweiler lignite coal mine near the dutch border. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

(AP Photo/Michael Probst)

              The sun rises behind a lignite excavator at the Garzweiler lignite coal mine near the village of Luetzerath, Erkelenz, Germany, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023. The village of Luetzerath has to be demolished to expand the Garzweiler lignite coal mine near the dutch border. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
            
              A person sits in a chair next to the Garzweiler lignite opencast mine at the village Luetzerath near Erkelenz, Germany, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023. A court in Germany has rejected a last-ditch attempt by climate activists to stay in an abandoned village which is due to be cleared for the expansion of a coal mine that's become a battleground between the government and environmentalists. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
            
              Police officers in riot gear face climate activists at village Luetzerath near Erkelenz, Germany, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023. The village of Luetzerath is occupied by climate activists fighting against the demolishing of the village to expand the Garzweiler lignite coal mine near the Dutch border. Poster read: „1,5 degrees celsius means: Luetzerath stays". (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
            
              Police officers scuffle with demonstrators at the village of Luetzerath near Erkelenz, Germany, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023. The village of Luetzerath is occupied by climate activists fighting against the demolishing of the village to expand the Garzweiler lignite coal mine near the Dutch border. Poster read: „1,5 degrees celsius means: Luetzerath stays". (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
            
              Police officers lead away a demonstrator the at village Luetzerath near Erkelenz, Germany, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023. The village of Luetzerath is occupied by climate activists fighting against the demolishing of the village to expand the Garzweiler lignite coal mine near the Dutch border. Poster read: „1,5 degrees celsius means: Luetzerath stays". (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
            
              Police officers carry away a demonstrator to clear a road at the village Luetzerath near Erkelenz, Germany, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023. The village of Luetzerath is occupied by climate activists fighting against the demolishing of the village to expand the Garzweiler lignite coal mine near the Dutch border. Poster read: „1,5 degrees celsius means: Luetzerath stays". (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
            
              Police officers carry a demonstrator to clear a road at the village Luetzerath near Erkelenz, Germany, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023. The village of Luetzerath is occupied by climate activists fighting against the demolishing of the village to expand the Garzweiler lignite coal mine near the Dutch border. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
            
              Police officers and protesters clash on a road at the village Luetzerath near Erkelenz, Germany, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023. The village of Luetzerath is occupied by climate activists fighting against the demolishing of the village to expand the Garzweiler lignite coal mine near the Dutch border. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
            
              Climate activist sits on the ground at the village Luetzerath near Erkelenz, Germany, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023. The village of Luetzerath is occupied by climate activists fighting against the demolishing of the village to expand the Garzweiler lignite coal mine near the Dutch border. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
            
              A person sits in a chair next to the Garzweiler lignite opencast mine at the village Luetzerath near Erkelenz, Germany, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023. A court in Germany has rejected a last-ditch attempt by climate activists to stay in an abandoned village which is due to be cleared for the expansion of a coal mine that's become a battleground between the government and environmentalists. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
            
              The sun rises behind police officer with riot gear at the village Luetzerath near Erkelenz, Germany, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023. The village of Luetzerath is occupied by climate activists fighting against the demolishing of the village to expand the Garzweiler lignite coal mine near the Dutch border. Poster read: „1,5 degrees celsius means: Luetzerath stays". (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
            
              Climate activists sit in so-called tripods and on a  tree trunk at the village of Luetzerath near Erkelenz, Germany, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023. The village of Luetzerath has to be demolished to expand the Garzweiler lignite coal mine near the dutch border. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
            
              Police officers and demonstrators meet on a road at the village Luetzerath near Erkelenz, Germany, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023. The village of Luetzerath is occupied by climate activists fighting against the demolishing of the village to expand the Garzweiler lignite coal mine near the Dutch border. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
            
              A person sits in a hammock next to the Garzweiler lignite opencast mine at the village Luetzerath near Erkelenz, Germany, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023. A court in Germany has rejected a last-ditch attempt by climate activists to stay in an abandoned village which is due to be cleared for the expansion of a coal mine that's become a battleground between the government and environmentalists. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
            
              Police officers carry a demonstrator to clear a road at the village Luetzerath near Erkelenz, Germany, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023. The village of Luetzerath is occupied by climate activists fighting against the demolishing of the village to expand the Garzweiler lignite coal mine near the Dutch border. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
            
              Police officers scuffle with demonstrators at village Luetzerath near Erkelenz, Germany, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023. The village of Luetzerath is occupied by climate activists fighting against the demolishing of the village to expand the Garzweiler lignite coal mine near the Dutch border. Poster read: „1,5 degrees celsius means: Luetzerath stays". (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
            
              Police officers carry a demonstrator to clear a road at the village Luetzerath near Erkelenz, Germany, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023. The village of Luetzerath is occupied by climate activists fighting against the demolishing of the village to expand the Garzweiler lignite coal mine near the Dutch border. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
            
              The sun rises behind a lignite excavator at the Garzweiler lignite coal mine near the village of Luetzerath, Erkelenz, Germany, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023. The village of Luetzerath has to be demolished to expand the Garzweiler lignite coal mine near the dutch border. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
            
              A person sits in a chair next to the Garzweiler lignite opencast mine at the village Luetzerath near Erkelenz, Germany, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023. A court in Germany has rejected a last-ditch attempt by climate activists to stay in an abandoned village which is due to be cleared for the expansion of a coal mine that's become a battleground between the government and environmentalists. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
            
              Police officers in riot gear face climate activists at village Luetzerath near Erkelenz, Germany, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023. The village of Luetzerath is occupied by climate activists fighting against the demolishing of the village to expand the Garzweiler lignite coal mine near the Dutch border. Poster read: „1,5 degrees celsius means: Luetzerath stays". (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
            
              Police officers scuffle with demonstrators at the village of Luetzerath near Erkelenz, Germany, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023. The village of Luetzerath is occupied by climate activists fighting against the demolishing of the village to expand the Garzweiler lignite coal mine near the Dutch border. Poster read: „1,5 degrees celsius means: Luetzerath stays". (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
            
              Police officers lead away a demonstrator the at village Luetzerath near Erkelenz, Germany, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023. The village of Luetzerath is occupied by climate activists fighting against the demolishing of the village to expand the Garzweiler lignite coal mine near the Dutch border. Poster read: „1,5 degrees celsius means: Luetzerath stays". (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
            
              Police officers carry away a demonstrator to clear a road at the village Luetzerath near Erkelenz, Germany, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023. The village of Luetzerath is occupied by climate activists fighting against the demolishing of the village to expand the Garzweiler lignite coal mine near the Dutch border. Poster read: „1,5 degrees celsius means: Luetzerath stays". (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
            
              Police officers carry a demonstrator to clear a road at the village Luetzerath near Erkelenz, Germany, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023. The village of Luetzerath is occupied by climate activists fighting against the demolishing of the village to expand the Garzweiler lignite coal mine near the Dutch border. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
            
              Police officers and protesters clash on a road at the village Luetzerath near Erkelenz, Germany, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023. The village of Luetzerath is occupied by climate activists fighting against the demolishing of the village to expand the Garzweiler lignite coal mine near the Dutch border. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
            
              Climate activist sits on the ground at the village Luetzerath near Erkelenz, Germany, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023. The village of Luetzerath is occupied by climate activists fighting against the demolishing of the village to expand the Garzweiler lignite coal mine near the Dutch border. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
            
              A person sits in a chair next to the Garzweiler lignite opencast mine at the village Luetzerath near Erkelenz, Germany, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023. A court in Germany has rejected a last-ditch attempt by climate activists to stay in an abandoned village which is due to be cleared for the expansion of a coal mine that's become a battleground between the government and environmentalists. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
            
              The sun rises behind police officer with riot gear at the village Luetzerath near Erkelenz, Germany, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023. The village of Luetzerath is occupied by climate activists fighting against the demolishing of the village to expand the Garzweiler lignite coal mine near the Dutch border. Poster read: „1,5 degrees celsius means: Luetzerath stays". (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
            
              Climate activists sit in so-called tripods and on a  tree trunk at the village of Luetzerath near Erkelenz, Germany, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023. The village of Luetzerath has to be demolished to expand the Garzweiler lignite coal mine near the dutch border. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
            
              Police officers and demonstrators meet on a road at the village Luetzerath near Erkelenz, Germany, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023. The village of Luetzerath is occupied by climate activists fighting against the demolishing of the village to expand the Garzweiler lignite coal mine near the Dutch border. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
            
              A person sits in a hammock next to the Garzweiler lignite opencast mine at the village Luetzerath near Erkelenz, Germany, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023. A court in Germany has rejected a last-ditch attempt by climate activists to stay in an abandoned village which is due to be cleared for the expansion of a coal mine that's become a battleground between the government and environmentalists. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
            
              Police officers carry a demonstrator to clear a road at the village Luetzerath near Erkelenz, Germany, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023. The village of Luetzerath is occupied by climate activists fighting against the demolishing of the village to expand the Garzweiler lignite coal mine near the Dutch border. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
            
              Police officers scuffle with demonstrators at village Luetzerath near Erkelenz, Germany, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023. The village of Luetzerath is occupied by climate activists fighting against the demolishing of the village to expand the Garzweiler lignite coal mine near the Dutch border. Poster read: „1,5 degrees celsius means: Luetzerath stays". (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
            
              Police officers carry a demonstrator to clear a road at the village Luetzerath near Erkelenz, Germany, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023. The village of Luetzerath is occupied by climate activists fighting against the demolishing of the village to expand the Garzweiler lignite coal mine near the Dutch border. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
            
              A police officers helps a colleague as police scuffle with demonstrators at village Luetzerath near Erkelenz, Germany, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023. The village of Luetzerath is occupied by climate activists fighting against the demolishing of the village to expand the Garzweiler lignite coal mine near the Dutch border. Poster read: „1,5 degrees celsius means: Luetzerath stays". (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
            
              Police officers scuffle with demonstrators at the village of Luetzerath near Erkelenz, Germany, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023. The village of Luetzerath is occupied by climate activists fighting against the demolishing of the village to expand the Garzweiler lignite coal mine near the Dutch border. Poster read: „1,5 degrees celsius means: Luetzerath stays". (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
            
              The sun rises behind a lignite excavator at the Garzweiler lignite coal mine near the village of Luetzerath, Erkelenz, Germany, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023. The village of Luetzerath has to be demolished to expand the Garzweiler lignite coal mine near the dutch border. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
            
              Climate activists sit in so-called tripods and on a  tree trunk at the village of Luetzerath near Erkelenz, Germany, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023. The village of Luetzerath has to be demolished to expand the Garzweiler lignite coal mine near the dutch border. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
            
              Police officers carry away a demonstrator to clear a road at the village Luetzerath near Erkelenz, Germany, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023. A court in Germany has rejected a last-ditch attempt by climate activists to stay in an abandoned village which is due to be cleared for the expansion of a coal mine that’s become a battleground between the government and environmentalists.  (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
            
              Police officers carry talk to a demonstrator to clear a road at the village Luetzerath near Erkelenz, Germany, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023. The village of Luetzerath is occupied by climate activists fighting against the demolishing of the village to expand the Garzweiler lignite coal mine near the Dutch border. Poster read: „1,5 degrees celsius means: Luetzerath stays". (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
            
              Police officers carry away a demonstrator to clear a road at the village Luetzerath near Erkelenz, Germany, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023. The village of Luetzerath is occupied by climate activists fighting against the demolishing of the village to expand the Garzweiler lignite coal mine near the Dutch border. Poster read: „1,5 degrees celsius means: Luetzerath stays". (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
            
              Police officers talk to a demonstrator to clear a road at the village Luetzerath near Erkelenz, Germany, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023. A court in Germany has rejected a last-ditch attempt by climate activists to stay in an abandoned village which is due to be cleared for the expansion of a coal mine that’s become a battleground between the government and environmentalists. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
            
              Activists stand on the edge of the open-cast lignite mine on the outskirts of Luetzerath, Germany, Tuesday Jan. 3, 2023. Since Monday, the police and RWE have been preparing to evict the village of Luetzerath, which is occupied by activists. (Oliver Berg/dpa via AP)
            
              Demonstrators stand in front of police as they protest against the eviction of Luetzerath, in Berlin, Germany, Monday, Jan. 9, 2023. The village of Luetzerath has to be demolished to expand the Garzweiler lignite coal mine near the dutch border. (Annette Riedl/dpa via AP)
            
              People set off pyrotechnics from a house, while demonstrators hold banners reading ''Defend free spaces!'' and ''Solidarity with Luetzerath'' as they protest against the eviction of Luetzerath, in Berlin, Germany, Monday, Jan. 9, 2023. The village of Luetzerath has to be demolished to expand the Garzweiler lignite coal mine near the dutch border. (Annette Riedl/dpa via AP)
            
              Police officers detain an activist on the edge of the open-cast lignite mine on the outskirts of Luetzerath, Germany, Tuesday Jan. 3, 2023. Since Monday, the police and RWE have been preparing to evict the village of Luetzerath, which is occupied by activists. (Oliver Berg/dpa via AP)
            
              Climate activists sit in so-called tripos on at village Luetzerath near Erkelenz, Germany, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023. The village of Luetzerath has to be demolished to expand the Garzweiler lignite coal mine near the dutch border. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
            
              Climate activists sit in so-called tripos on a trunk at village Luetzerath near Erkelenz, Germany, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023. The village of Luetzerath has to be demolished to expand the Garzweiler lignite coal mine near the dutch border. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

LUETZERATH, Germany (AP) — Several hundred climate activists tried Tuesday to prevent heavy machinery from reaching an abandoned village in Germany that is due to be cleared for the expansion of a coal mine, even as police pushed back protesters and removed road blocks ahead of a possible clearance this week.

The standoff between police and protesters followed a regional court’s decision Monday rejecting a last-ditch attempt by the activists to stay in the hamlet of Luetzerath, west of Cologne, which has become a battleground between the government and environmentalists.

About 300 people refused to heed the ruling arguing that civil disobedience at the site was justified in the face of the climate crisis.

Utility company RWE wants to extract the coal beneath Luetzerath, which it says is necessary to ensure energy security in Germany. The company reached a deal with the regional government last year that allows the village to be destroyed in return for ending coal use by 2030, rather than 2038.

But climate campaigners say the agreement to expand the massive open-cast Garzweiler mine goes against Germany’s international commitments to reduce emissions of planet-warming greenhouse gases. They also cite studies suggesting the coal beneath Luetzerath may never be needed.

Tuesday’s protest began peacefully, with activists sitting in self-dug trenches and atop large tripods along the roads to the village. Others locked arms in long lines to prevent police and heavy machinery from getting through.

As officers slowly pushed the activists back and carried some away by force, scuffles briefly broke out. On at least two occasions police used pepper spray to stop protesters from advancing again. They in turn responded with chants of “We are peaceful, what are you?” and “We’re here for your children too.”

Some protesters expressed particular anger at the environmentalist Green party, which is part of the regional and national governments. It supports the deal with RWE, citing the company’s claim that the lignite coal beneath Luetzerath is needed and other surrounding villages will be saved under the agreement.

A group of activists dumped 250 kilograms (550 pounds) of coal bricks outside the Greens’ regional headquarters in Duesseldorf, along with a wooden cross meant to symbolize the death of the party’s ideals, German news agency dpa reported.

A townhall meeting Tuesday attended by regional officials and police is expected to see disagreement over the mine come to a head.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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German police clear blockades at village condemned for mine