Status: 01/14/2023 9:25 p.m
Protest day full of confrontations: Thousands of people demonstrated near Lützerath against lignite mining. There were repeated clashes with the police while the demolition work continued.
The situation around the village of Lützerath in the Rhenish lignite mining area calmed down after dark. Many demonstrators left the immediate area after the police called for them to do so.
During the day there had been repeated clashes between climate activists and police officers. The police used water cannons, batons and pepper spray on the fringes of the large-scale demonstration against the evacuation of the site. According to a police spokesman, “immediate coercion” had to be used to prevent the demonstrators from advancing to Lützerath.
There were also injuries. He couldn’t say how many. The authority did not provide any information on the number of emergency services.
Thousands of people near Lützerath
Lützerath, a district of Erkelenz west of Cologne, has been cordoned off by the police for days and surrounded by a double fence. The few buildings in the settlement are currently being demolished to enable the energy company RWE to excavate the coal underneath.
In contrast, despite the constant rain and strong gusts of wind, many thousands of people protested in the neighboring district of Keyenberg – many of them peacefully. The police spoke of 15,000 participants. About 5,000 of them did not take part in the meeting, but immediately moved in the direction of the quarry edge and Lützerath.
The organizers assume higher numbers: The BUND, as one of the organizers, assumed an estimated 35,000 people, the All Villages Stay initiative even 50,000.
Penetrated in open pit
Some demonstrators broke through police chains and penetrated to the demolition edge, some even into the mine itself. The police tried to push people back. The police warned that it was life-threatening to walk to the edge of the mine because the ground had softened due to the rain and there was a risk of landslides. “I am absolutely appalled at how normal meeting participants allow themselves to be carried away into entering the absolute danger area here,” Aachen police chief Dirk Weinspach told the dpa news agency.
Demonstrators at the demolition edge – the police consider this to be life-threatening.
Police vehicles damaged
According to the police, individual demonstrators attacked police vehicles and threw pyrotechnics in the direction of the officers. A spokesman said tires were punctured and wing mirrors kicked off.
A spokesman on the rally stage had previously explicitly called for police instructions to be ignored. He thinks it’s legitimate if the participants try to get into the cordoned off Lützerath, he said: “Don’t let the police stop you. We are powerful. We are on the side of justice. We won’t let this repressive system stop us. We’re stopping this mine. Do whatever you think is right.”
Thunberg: “Fight not over”
The main speaker at the rally was Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg. “Lützerath is still there, and as long as the coal is still in the ground, this fight is not over,” said the 20-year-old. It is incomprehensible to her that coal will still be mined and burned in 2023, although it is well known that the climate change caused by this is costing human lives in many parts of the world. “Germany, as one of the world’s biggest polluters, has an enormous responsibility,” Thunberg warned.
Activists stay in the tunnel
In the meantime, the evacuation continued in Lützerath itself. Emergency services climbed trees on which activists persevered. According to the energy company RWE, preparations were also underway to get two activists out of a tunnel. “The forces are very careful, no heavy equipment can be used here because that would endanger people in the underground soil structures,” said police chief Weinspach.
The demolition of the already cleared buildings also continued on Saturday. Among them was the former home of farmer Eckardt Heukamp. He had been the last farmer in Lützerath.