Clearance of German hamlet for mine said to be near-complete

BERLIN (AP) — A village in western Germany that is due to be demolished to make way for a coal mine expansion has been cleared of activists, apart from a pair who remained holed up in a tunnel, police said Sunday.

The operation to evict climate activists who flocked to the site in the hamlet of Luetzerath kicked off Wednesday morning and progressed steadily over the following days. Police cleared people out of farm buildings, the few remaining houses and a few dozen makeshift constructions such as tree houses.

On Saturday, thousands of people demonstrated nearby against the eviction and the planned expansion of the Garzweiler coal mine. There were standoffs with police as some protesters tried to reach the village, which is now fenced off, and the mine.

Environmentalists say bulldozing the village to expand the Garzweiler mine would result in huge amounts of greenhouse gas emissions. The government and utility company RWE argue the coal is needed to ensure Germany’s energy security.

The regional and national governments, both of which include the environmentalist Green party, reached a deal with RWE last year allowing it to destroy the abandoned village in return for ending coal use by 2030, rather than 2038.

The Greens' leaders argue that the deal fulfills many of the environmentalists’ demands and saved five other villages from demolition, and that Luetzerath is the wrong symbol for protests. Activists reject that stance.

Police said in a statement Sunday that nearly 300 people have been removed so far from Luetzerath. They added that “the rescue by RWE Power of the two people in underground structures continues; beyond that, the clearance by police is complete.”

They said that 12 people were detained in connection with Saturday's incidents. Demolition of the buildings in Luetzerath is already under way.

Swedish climate campaigner Greta Thunberg, who joined Saturday's big protest, took part in a smaller demonstration on Sunday, singing and dancing with other activists near the edge of the mine, German news agency dpa reported.

Police said Thunberg briefly sat on an embankment at the edge of the mine and officers carried her a few steps away after didn't comply with calls to move for her own safety, dpa reported, adding that she then went on her way.

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