Clearance of German hamlet for mine said to be near-complete

Jan 14, 2023, 6:35 PM | Updated: Jan 15, 2023, 3:04 pm
Remains of the tree houses lie on the ground.in Erkelenz, Germany, Sunday, Jan. 15, 2023. Police sa...

Remains of the tree houses lie on the ground.in Erkelenz, Germany, Sunday, Jan. 15, 2023. Police say that a village in western Germany that is due to be demolished to allow the expansion of a coal mine has been cleared of activists, apart from a pair who remain holed up in a tunnel. The operation to evict climate activists who were holed up in the hamlet of Luetzerath kicked off on Wednesday morning and progressed steadily over the following days. (Thomas Banneyer/dpa via AP)

(Thomas Banneyer/dpa via AP)

              Remains of the tree houses lie on the ground.in Erkelenz, Germany, Sunday, Jan. 15, 2023. Police say that a village in western Germany that is due to be demolished to allow the expansion of a coal mine has been cleared of activists, apart from a pair who remain holed up in a tunnel. The operation to evict climate activists who were holed up in the hamlet of Luetzerath kicked off on Wednesday morning and progressed steadily over the following days. (Thomas Banneyer/dpa via AP)
            
              Police officers and firefighters in front of the entrance of a building where activists have entrenched themselves in a tunnel, in Erkelenz, Germany, Sunday, Jan. 15, 2023. Police say that a village in western Germany that is due to be demolished to allow the expansion of a coal mine has been cleared of activists, apart from a pair who remain holed up in a tunnel. The operation to evict climate activists who were holed up in the hamlet of Luetzerath kicked off on Wednesday morning and progressed steadily over the following days. (Thomas Banneyer/dpa via AP)
            
              Firefighters come out of the building where two activists have entrenched themselves in a tunnel in the hamlet of Luetzerath, near Erkelenz, Germany, Sunday, Jan. 15, 2023. On Saturday, thousands of people demonstrated nearby against the eviction and the planned expansion of the Garzweiler coal mine. (Thomas Banneyer/dpa via AP)
            
              Firefighters and specialists of RWE stand in front of the entrance of a building at a ventilation hose for a tunnel in which two activists have entrenched themselves in the town of Luetzerath, near Erkelenz, Germany, Sunday, Jan. 15, 2023. On Saturday, thousands of people demonstrated nearby against the eviction and the planned expansion of the Garzweiler coal mine. (Thomas Banneyer/dpa via AP)
            
              Police forces stand in front of the entrance to a building where two activists have entrenched themselves in a tunnel in the hamlet of Luetzerath, near Erkelenz, Germany, Sunday, Jan. 15, 2023. On Saturday, thousands of people demonstrated nearby against the eviction and the planned expansion of the Garzweiler coal mine. (Thomas Banneyer/dpa via AP)
            
              Firefighters stand in front of the entrance to a building where two activists have entrenched themselves in a tunnel in the hamlet of Luetzerath, near Erkelenz, Germany, Sunday, Jan. 15, 2023. Police say the village in western Germany that is due to be demolished to allow the expansion of a coal mine has been cleared of cactivists, apart from the pair who remain holed up in the tunnel.  (Thomas Banneyer/dpa via AP)
            
              Climate activist Greta Thunberg stands between Keyenberg and Lützerath under police guard on the edge of the open pit mine and dances in Erkelenz, Germany, Sunday, Jan. 15, 2023. The energy company RWE wants to excavate the coal lying under Luetzerath, for this purpose, the hamlet on the territory of the city of Erkelenz at the opencast lignite mine Garzweiler II is to be demolished. (Federico Gambarini/dpa via AP)
            
              Climate activist Greta Thunberg stands between Keyenberg and Lützerath under police guard on the edge of the open pit mine and dances in Erkelenz, Germany, Sunday, Jan. 15, 2023. The energy company RWE wants to excavate the coal lying under Luetzerath, for this purpose, the hamlet on the territory of the city of Erkelenz at the opencast lignite mine Garzweiler II is to be demolished. (Federico Gambarini/dpa via AP)
            
              Climate activist Greta Thunberg stands between Keyenberg and Lützerath under police guard on the edge of the open pit mine and dances in Erkelenz, Germany, Sunday, Jan. 15, 2023. The energy company RWE wants to excavate the coal lying under Luetzerath, for this purpose, the hamlet on the territory of the city of Erkelenz at the opencast lignite mine Garzweiler II is to be demolished. (Federico Gambarini/dpa via AP)

BERLIN (AP) — A village in western Germany that is due to be demolished to make way for a coal mine expansion has been cleared of activists, apart from a pair who remained holed up in a tunnel, police said Sunday.

The operation to evict climate activists who flocked to the site in the hamlet of Luetzerath kicked off Wednesday morning and progressed steadily over the following days. Police cleared people out of farm buildings, the few remaining houses and a few dozen makeshift constructions such as tree houses.

On Saturday, thousands of people demonstrated nearby against the eviction and the planned expansion of the Garzweiler coal mine. There were standoffs with police as some protesters tried to reach the village, which is now fenced off, and the mine.

Environmentalists say bulldozing the village to expand the Garzweiler 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.

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.

The Greens’ leaders argue that the deal fulfills many of the environmentalists’ demands and saved five other villages from demolition, and that Luetzerath is the wrong symbol for protests. Activists reject that stance.

Police said in a statement Sunday that nearly 300 people have been removed so far from Luetzerath. They added that “the rescue by RWE Power of the two people in underground structures continues; beyond that, the clearance by police is complete.”

They said that 12 people were detained in connection with Saturday’s incidents. Demolition of the buildings in Luetzerath is already under way.

Swedish climate campaigner Greta Thunberg, who joined Saturday’s big protest, took part in a smaller demonstration on Sunday, singing and dancing with other activists near the edge of the mine, German news agency dpa reported.

Police said Thunberg briefly sat on an embankment at the edge of the mine and officers carried her a few steps away after didn’t comply with calls to move for her own safety, dpa reported, adding that she then went on her way.

___

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Clearance of German hamlet for mine said to be near-complete