Greta Thunberg joins German anti-coal protesters

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STORY: Climate activist Greta Thunberg and an estimated 6,000 people marched through mud and rain on Saturday to protest against the expansion of an opencast lignite mine near Luetzerath in Germany.

"The carbon is still in the ground. We are still here. Luetzerath is still there. And as long as the carbon is in the ground, this struggle is not over."

Earlier this week, police cleared protesters from buildings in the North Rhine-Westphalia state village after a court decision allowed energy giant RWE to go ahead with the expansion.

Demonstrators had been occupying them for about two years.

RWE and the government had struck a deal to raze the village in exchange for the company’s faster exit from coal as well as saving other villages originally slated for destruction.

"The fact that all of you are here is a sign of hope. This is only a part of a much larger global climate movement, a movement for climate and social justice and racial justice. Luetzerath...What happens in Luetzerath doesn't stay in Luetzerath. Germany as one of the biggest polluters in the world has an enormous responsibility."

On Saturday, only a few people remained camping out in treehouses and an underground tunnel, but thousands turned up to protest against the mine, which activists say symbolizes Berlin's failing climate policy.

Regional police said on Twitter they had used force to stop people from breaking through barriers and nearing the danger zone at the edge of the excavation area.

"You are showing clearly today that the changes will not come from the people in power, from governments, from corporations, from the so-called leaders. No, the real leaders are here. It is the people who are sitting in tree houses and those who have been defending Luetzerath for example for years now."

The state president said on German radio that energy politics were "not always pretty" but that the coal was needed more than ever in light of the energy crisis confronting Europe's biggest economy.