Police press ahead with clearance of condemned German hamlet

Jan 11, 2023, 10:17 AM | Updated: Jan 12, 2023, 12:23 am
Police officers stand inside a camp of climate activists at the village Luetzerath, near Erkelenz, ...

Police officers stand inside a camp of climate activists at the village Luetzerath, near Erkelenz, Germany, Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023. Police have entered the condemned village in to evict the climate activists holed up at the site in an effort to prevent its demolition, to make way for the expansion of a coal mine. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

(AP Photo/Michael Probst)

              Climate activists sit on the roof of a barn, in the foreground high-altitude climbers of the police stand together for a situation briefing in Luetzerath, near Erkelenz, Germany, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023. Environmental activists have been locked in a standoff with police who started eviction operations on Wednesday around the hamlet of Luetzerath, west of Cologne, that’s due to be bulldozed for the expansion of a nearby lignite mine. (Thomas Banneyer/dpa via AP)
            
              Climate activists sit on the roof of a barn, in the foreground high-altitude climbers of the police stand together for a situation briefing, in Luetzerath, Germany, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023. Environmental activists have been locked in a standoff with police who started eviction operations on Wednesday in the hamlet of Luetzerath, west of Cologne, that's due to be bulldozed for the expansion of a nearby lignite mine. (Thomas Banneyer/dpa via AP)
            
              A climate activist has entrenched himself in a car, presumably chained, and is freed by police forces using a hydraulic spreader and a flex, in Luetzerath, Germany, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023. Environmental activists have been locked in a standoff with police who started eviction operations on Wednesday in the hamlet of Luetzerath, west of Cologne, that's due to be bulldozed for the expansion of a nearby lignite mine. (Thomas Banneyer/dpa via AP)
            
              Height climbers of the police stand in a cleared warehouse, in Luetzerath, Germany, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023. Police in riot gear began evicting climate activists Wednesday from the condemned village in western Germany that is due to be demolished for the expansion of a coal mine. The government and utility company RWE argue the coal is needed to ensure Germany’s energy security. (Thomas Banneyer/dpa via AP)
            
              A climate activist lies in a kind of hammock between trees in the activists' camp, in Luetzerath, Germany, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023. Environmental activists have been locked in a standoff with police who started eviction operations on Wednesday in the hamlet of Luetzerath, west of Cologne, that's due to be bulldozed for the expansion of a nearby lignite mine. (Thomas Banneyer/dpa via AP)
            
              Police officers stand inside a camp of climate activists at the village Luetzerath, near Erkelenz, Germany, Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023. Police have entered the condemned village in to evict the climate activists holed up at the site in an effort to prevent its demolition, to make way for the expansion of a coal mine. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
            
              Police officers stand inside a camp of climate activists at the village Luetzerath, near Erkelenz, Germany, Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023. Police have entered the condemned village in to evict the climate activists holed up at the site in an effort to prevent its demolition, to make way for the expansion of a coal mine. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

LUETZERATH, Germany (AP) — 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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Police press ahead with clearance of condemned German hamlet