The fear of violence was great. At the start of the evacuation of Lützerath, there were also isolated attacks on police officers. Some climate activists went voluntarily, others want to hold out.
Amid predominantly peaceful protests, the police have begun to clear the lignite town of Lützerath in the Rhenish mining area, which is occupied by climate activists. By the afternoon, a spokesman was “very satisfied” with the course of events: “So far, everything is going according to plan for the police.” Massive resistance was expected in advance. Observers, on the other hand, spoke of a partly relaxed atmosphere.
Early in the morning there were scuffles at the start of the evacuation in the district of Lützerath, which belongs to Erkelenz. According to the police, a Molotov cocktail, stones and pyrotechnics were thrown in the direction of the officers.
The energy company RWE wants to excavate the coal lying under Lützerath – for this purpose the hamlet in the area of the city of Erkelenz is to be demolished. In Lützerath, climate activists have been living in empty houses in protest for months.
Some climate protectors followed the police’s request and left voluntarily. They were escorted off the premises. But many wanted to continue to resist. “People are determined to persevere, to protect the trees and the buildings,” said Mara Sauer, a spokeswoman for the “Lützerath Lives” initiative.
Another spokeswoman accused the police of being too harsh. Helpers were not allowed through. “Just now another activist was brought out under pain handles,” she said in the afternoon. You have also heard of injured people.
Reul: “To be distanced from the actions of violent activists”
NRW Interior Minister Herbert Reul (CDU) sharply criticized attacks on police officers at noon. “I’m actually just stunned and don’t understand how people can do something like that,” said Reul about the throws in the direction of the officials. Now all peaceful demonstrators have a duty to distance themselves from the actions of violent activists. “You can demonstrate somewhere else, you don’t have to help them by standing there and disturbing the police at work,” he said.
Reul spoke of 350 people who were unlawfully in Lützerath. According to Aachen police chief Dirk Weinspach, around 200 climate activists left the site voluntarily. Two of his officers were slightly injured, but are still able to work.
As of noon, the police had started taking activists down from trees and platforms. The officials used lifting platforms at various points. At the entrance to Lützerath, excavators began demolition work. One of the town signs of Lützerath was also removed in the early afternoon. Officials later knocked over self-made small wooden houses on stilts to continue the eviction. According to a dpa reporter, the officials in the hut and tree house camp were accompanied by abuse from the activists. For example, the police also removed fire extinguishers that the activists kept in the huts.
“We have experienced predominantly peaceful protests here, in sit-ins, on tripods – and these are forms of protest with which we are very prepared,” said a police spokesman in the afternoon. If the activists allowed themselves to be carried away, it was still passive protest and therefore within the scope of what was appropriate.
“Targeted communication helped to de-escalate the situation”
After dark, the clearance work continued in the evening. Activists persevered on high stands and in the tree houses in windy weather. Construction machines drove back and forth, parts of Lützerath were brightly lit with floodlights, others plunged into deep darkness. In a barn, police officers took activists down from a platform.
For the police union (DPolG), the police’s operational concept for clearing the village of Lützerath has worked so far. “The targeted communication has contributed to the de-escalation of the situation,” said DPolG chairman Rainer Wendt at noon. “Experiences from past operations, such as that in the Hambach Forest in 2018, show that the police have to reckon with considerable resistance, including traps being set up.”
Greta Thunberg is coming to Lützerath
The climate activist Greta Thunberg wants to come to Lützerath for protests. The Swede announced on Twitter that she wanted to take part in a demonstration on Saturday against the evacuation of the town occupied by climate activists. “The science agrees, those most concerned agree: no more fossil fuels!” she wrote. Thunberg had already traveled to Lützerath in September 2021 to demonstrate against coal mining and for compliance with the 1.5-degree climate target – one day before the federal elections at the time.
In the conflict surrounding the evacuation of the lignite village, Aachen Bishop Helmut Dern appealed to all sides not to start a spiral of violence. “Peaceful protests are a central part of a vibrant democracy,” he said, according to the Vicariate General. “But a credible constitutional state also means that rules and agreements are observed.”
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