German police say Lutzerath anti-coal protest almost cleared

German police say Lutzerath anti-coal protest almost cleared
# 14 January 2023 04:32 (UTC +04:00)

German police on Friday said the eviction of anti-coal protesters, who were trying to block the expansion of a coal mine in the western village of Lutzerath, was almost complete, APA reports citing Anadolu Agency.

"The clearing of the above-ground structures is largely complete. We have evacuated almost all the houses except for one. The meadow has been cleared, most of the tree houses have been cleared ... there is not that much left,” Aachen Dirk Weinspach, the head of the police in the city of Aachen, told public broadcaster WDR.

On Thursday, numerous wooden huts and barricades belonging to the activists were razed to the ground by excavators. Two symbolic houses of the former residents of Lutzerath were also cleared.

The eviction continued through late Thursday night as anti-coal activists who had cemented themselves in or chained themselves were also freed.

On the third day of the eviction, police are now focusing on activists who have retreated to underground tunnels.

“We don't know how stable these subterranean soil structures are. We also don't know how the air supply is there,” said Aachen police chief Dirk Weinspach.

Rescue workers ended their mission late Thursday without being able to get the activists out of the tunnel.

Environmental groups had hoped that Luzerath would be spared from excavation after Chancellor Olaf Scholz's center-left coalition, among them the pro-environment Green party, took office in December 2021 pledging to phase out the use of coal.

However, Russia's war in Ukraine has triggered an energy crisis, forcing Berlin to restart mothballed coal plants to secure Germany's power needs.