The unusual battle for an abandoned village in Germany

The town of Luetzerath is occupied by climate activists fighting against its demolition to expand the Garzweiler lignite coal mine near the Dutch border. On the banner you can read: “From here only people with a conscience.” (Rolf Vennenbernd/dpa via AP) (Rolf Vennenbernd/)

Police stormed an abandoned western town on Wednesday Germany to evict the activists who had taken refuge in it to prevent its demolition with a view to expanding a coal mine.

Riot police officers entered the tiny village of luetzerath, which has become a flashpoint in the debate over the country’s climate efforts. They threw some stones and fireworks at the advancing police, who could be seen dismantling the posts set up by the protesters.

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The police announced the start of the operation and the fencing of the area. They said on Twitter that people “currently have the ability to leave the location without further police action.” They said they had found “more stored shells.”

The police announced the start of the operation and the fencing of the area.  (REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay)
The police announced the start of the operation and the fencing of the area. (REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay) (WOLFGANG RATTAY/)

Tens of activists remain camped in the village, some in tree houses, as police slowly remove more barricades near the entrance. Some activists read books or played the accordion perched about 3 meters high on tripods.

Luetzerath - Germany - Protest - Climate change - Coal
Some activists read books or played the accordion perched about 3 meters high on tripods. (AP/Michael Probst) (Michael Probst/)
Luetzerath - Germany - Protest - Climate change - Coal
Environmentalists say razing the town to expand the nearby Garzweiler coal mine would cause huge greenhouse gas emissions. (AP/Michael Probst) (Michael Probst/)
Luetzerath - Germany - Protest - Climate change - Coal
On Tuesday, the protesters refused to abide by a court ruling that prohibited their access to the area. (Rolf Vennenbernd/dpa via AP) (Rolf Vennenbernd/)

A few sat on the roofs of the remaining buildings in luetzerath, one of them waving a rainbow flag. Conditions were wet and muddy.

Environmentalists claim that razing the town to expand the nearby Garzweiler coal mine would cause huge emissions of greenhouse gases.

The government and the electricity company RWE say that coal is necessary to guarantee the Germany’s energy security. The utility RWE struck a deal with the regional government last year allowing the town to be destroyed in exchange for ending coal use by 2030, instead of 2038. The town’s last resident left in 2022 after being forced to sell to RWE.

On Tuesday, the protesters They refused to abide by a judicial sentence that prohibited their access to the area. Some dug trenches, built barricades and climbed on giant tripods to prevent the heavy machines from reaching the village, before the police forcibly drove them back.

Luetzerath - Germany - Protest - Climate change - Coal
The activists dug ditches, built barricades and climbed on giant tripods to prevent the heavy machines from reaching the town, before police forcibly drove them back. (AP/Michael Probst) (Michael Probst/)
Luetzerath - Germany - Protest - Climate change - Coal
Lakshmi Thevasagayam, spokesperson for the activist group Lives of Luetzerath, denounced a “total escalation” by the police (Rolf Vennenbernd/dpa via AP) (Rolf Vennenbernd/)
Luetzerath - Germany - Protest - Climate change - Coal
A protester is removed from the scene by the police. (AP/Michael Probst) (Michael Probst/)

Debate on climate change and civil disobedience

the fate of luetzerath has sparked a heated debate in Germany over the continued use of Coal in the country and whether the fight against climate change justify the violation of the law.

Studies indicate that some 110 million metric tons of coal from the subsoil of luetzerath. The Government and RWE affirm that this coal is necessary to guarantee the energy security of Germany, diminished by the cut off of the Russian gas supply due to the war in Ukraine.

Luetzerath - Germany - Protest - Climate change - Coal
Police officers in front of a climate activist in the town of Luetzerath, near Erkelenz, Germany, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023. (AP Photo/Michael Probst) (Michael Probst/)

Critics counter that burning so much coal would make it much harder for Germany, and the world, to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius as agreed in the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

Luetzerath “is now the European place of crystallization of the climate movement”, declared Lakshmi Thevasagayamspokesperson for the activist group Lives of Luetzerath. “We oppose RWE going one meter with its excavators, because we know that the coal under Luetzerath is not necessary for energy security: it must stay underground so that we can reach the climate justice”.

“Now we can do something against climate catastrophe, but at some point we won’t be able to anymore,” Thevasagayam said. He stated that there had been “a full escalation” by the police.

Luetzerath - Germany - Protest - Climate change - Coal
The head of the regional section of the Deutsche Polizeigewerkschaft police union, Erich Rettinghaus, stated that the police were acting “with great caution” (Rolf Vennenbernd/dpa via AP) (Rolf Vennenbernd/)

The head of the regional branch of the Deutsche Polizeigewerkschaft police union, Erich Rettinghaus, claimed that the police were acting “very carefully” and were giving protesters every chance to demonstrate peacefully. However, he noted that there were concerns about the possibility of trouble as potentially violent protesters from all over Europe had gathered at the site in recent days.

“The protest is a symbolic protest“, said. “The concerns are understandable; climate protection is important, but energy must remain affordable for everyone”, he added, pointing to the commitment that provides for the early end of the use of coal.

Police said there were concerns about trouble as potentially violent protesters from across Europe had gathered at the site in recent days.  (REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay)
Police said there were concerns about trouble as potentially violent protesters from across Europe had gathered at the site in recent days. (REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay) (WOLFGANG RATTAY/)

The public services company reported in a statement that one of the first measures will be the construction of a 1.5 kilometer fence around the site.

He said that he “appeals to the illegal squatters to respect the Rule of law and peacefully end the illegal occupation of buildings, plants and sites belonging to RWE”.

“Question of democracy”

Stephan Puschhead of the Erkelenz district administration in which the village is located, told a town hall meeting on Tuesday that while he was sympathetic to the protesters’ goals, the time had come to leave Luetzerath.

“They achieved their goal. Now clear the field, ”he said to boos from the room.

Luetzerath - Germany - Protest - Climate change - Coal
Some activists say the law is on their side, citing a 2021 Supreme Court ruling that forced the government to redouble its efforts to cut emissions. (Rolf Vennenbernd/dpa via AP) (Rolf Vennenbernd/)

Pusch warned protesters that intentionally breaking the law would not help their cause in a country where the violent seizure of power and the horrors of dictatorship are still in living memory.

“I will tell you honestly that I have afraid that my children will grow up in a world that is no longer worth living in“, he claimed. “But it gives me at least the same fear that my children will grow up in a country in which each one takes justice into their own hands.”

“You won’t save the world’s climate by yourself,” Pusch said. “(We will only do it) if we manage to take the majority of the population with us.”

An activist is removed from the place in a cart (REUTERS / Wolfgang Rattay)
An activist is removed from the place in a cart (REUTERS / Wolfgang Rattay) (WOLFGANG RATTAY /)

Debates about how far the civil disobedience have taken place in Germany and other countries in recent months, amid a wave of roadblocks and other shocking actions by protesters demanding tougher action to combat climate change.

Some activists claim that ultimately the law is on your sideciting a judgment of the supreme court of 2021 that forced the Government to redouble its efforts to reduce emissions. They also point to the legally binding of Germany’s commitments under the Paris Agreement.

After the meeting, the student Jannis Niethammer acknowledged that the dispute over Luetzerath touches on fundamental issues. “It’s a question of democracy and how do we get a democracy to move towards climate protection, towards climate justice,” he said.

(With information from AP)

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Source-www.infobae.com