Protesters march on German village, clash with police in opposition to coal mine expansion

Riot police fight protesters in the German village of Luetzerath.
Riot police fight protesters in the German village of Luetzerath. Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Thousands of climate protesters descended on the abandoned German village of Luetzerath on Saturday to try and stop the hamlet's destruction, which is slated to pave the way for the expansion of a nearby coal mine.

Climate activist Greta Thunberg joined the throngs of protesters who marched while enduring muddy and rainy conditions to demonstrate against the expansion of the Garzweiler coal mine. The demolition of Luetzerath has already begun, even as controversy over the decision continues.

The clearing of the village was part of an agreement between the German government and energy conglomerate RWE. According to Reutersthe deal will allow RWE to destroy Luetzerath in exchange for the company's quicker shift away from fossil fuels.

Despite the insistence of the German government, the protesters decried the move, and many were seen fighting with police officers as the march reached a boiling point. The total number of protesters is unclear — organizers said 35,000 people had shown up, while law enforcement put the figure closer to 10,000, per The Associated Press

Some of the protesters had already been camping out at Luetzerath for days, clashing with police even as the bulldozing of the village was getting underway. Riot police, backed by bulldozers, had been clearing protesters from Luetzerath for at least two days before Saturday's events.

"What everyone does matters," Thunberg told AP. "If one of the largest polluters, like Germany, and one of the biggest historical emitters of CO2 is doing something like this, then, of course, it affects more or less everyone — especially those most bearing the brunt of the climate crisis."

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