| 15 April 2024, Monday |

Police clear first buildings in abandoned German coal village

For a second day on Thursday, German police were attempting to free hundreds of climate protestors who had barricaded themselves in an abandoned village in western Germany as part of an ongoing standoff over the expansion of a coal mine.

In order to prevent the expansion of the RWE-owned Garzweiler lignite coal mine, protesters have been occupying the village of Luetzerath in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia for more than two years.

Following a court decision allowing RWE to proceed with the expansion, hundreds of police in riot gear moved in on Wednesday morning, clearing barricades erected by the activists.

But progress has been slow; two people have been detained and three more were in custody since the operation started on Wednesday, according to Aachen police spokesperson Andrew Mueller said.

Activists said hundreds of protesters were still at the site.


Equipped with ladders on rainy Thursday morning, police climbed the walls of one of the abandoned houses in the village as protesters in the building and on its roof chanted “People got the power” and “Luetzerath stays”.

Protesters have formed human chains, staged sit-ins and occupied deserted buildings which will be razed to make way for the mine’s expansion. Some have dug themselves into holes in the ground while others hung suspended from wooden tripods.

The standoff has been relatively peaceful, with a few light injuries on both sides according to police who on Thursday said they were prepared for all scenarios, including further escalation with the squatters in the coming days.

Police on Tuesday said it could take weeks to resolve the standoff with environmentalists, which is seen as a symbol of Berlin’s failing climate policy in light of the energy crisis in Europe’s biggest economy.

“We’re working our way up bit by bit. The weather doesn’t make it much easier. But for now it’s peaceful,” another Aachen police spokesperson, Cornelia Weber, said.

“We hope it stays that way,” Weber said.

The Garzweiler mine extracts around 25 million tonnes of lignite every year, according to RWE. The company has said it supports both energy transition and a temporary increase in the use of lignite-fired plants to tide Germany through the energy crisis.

  • Reuters