LUETZERATH: Climate activist Greta Thunberg condemned moves to demolish a German village to make way for a coal mine expansion as police clashed with demonstrators at the site on Saturday.
Crowds of activists marched on the hamlet of Luetzerath in western Germany, waving banners, chanting, and accompanied by a brass band.
On the sidelines, there were tense standoffs and scuffles in the pouring rain, between some protesters and police.
Luetzerath — deserted for some time by its original inhabitants — is being razed to make way for the extension of the adjacent open-cast coal mine, one of the largest in Europe, operated by energy firm RWE.
Thunberg marched at the front of a procession of demonstrators who converged on the village, showing support for activists occupying it in protest.
“That the German government is making deals and compromises with fossil fuel companies such as RWE, is shameful,” she said from a podium.
“Germany, as one of the biggest polluters in the world, has an enormous responsibility,” she added.
AFP saw some protesters clash with police trying to move the march away from Luetzerath, which has been fenced off.
Local media reported stones being thrown at police and one protester was seen with a head injury, as ambulance sirens sounded near the protest site.
Police said activists had smashed protective barriers near the huge coal mine and entered the mine site.
“The police barriers have been broken,” the police tweeted. “To the people in front of Luetzerath: get out of this area immediately.”
“Some people have entered the mine. Move away from the danger zone immediately!”
Final stages of evacuation
In an operation launched earlier this week, hundreds of police have been removing activists from the hamlet.
In just a few days, a large part of the protesters’ camp has been cleared by police, and its occupants evacuated.
German press, quoting the police, reported that around 470 activists had been removed from the village since the beginning of the evacuation.
But between 20 and 40 were still holed up in the contested village late Friday, a spokeswoman for the protest movement said. Officials said they were entering the final stages of evacuating the activists.
Demolition works were progressing slowly on those buildings that had been emptied while surrounding trees had been felled as part of the clearance.
The village has become a symbol of resistance to fossil fuels.