Violinists play last tunes before German coal village demolition

By Riham Alkousaa

LUETZERATH, Germany (Reuters) - Above the din of bulldozers and the shouts of hundreds of climate activists facing off against riot police in the western German village of Luetzerath on Thursday, two violinists bid their own farewell to the place set for demolition.

In full concert dress, the pair performed Bach from a makeshift balcony of a small house in the abandoned village, where activists holed up in the abandoned village in the brown-coal district of North Rhine-Westphalia, which has become a focus for climate protest.

Police have clashed with the demonstrators this week as they try to clear the area for the expansion of the Garzweiler mine run by RWE, a project which the government has pushed to tide Germany through Europe's energy crisis.

Thomas Gerlinger was supposed to play in a concert near Frankfurt on Sunday, but he cancelled his plans to join the protest.

"I'm here to make music because it's about an important cause, because this is the future for our children and grandchildren," the 54-year-old violinist told Reuters.

Gerlinger joined the protest with his daughter, who he said was evicted from the village by police on Wednesday but not arrested.

"When it was the time for the eviction to take place, it was clear to me that my place is here now and today," Gerlinger said.

His garb contrasts with the gear of his fellow activists, who have often dressed in masks, balaclavas or biosuits.

Along with his violinist friend who gave his name only as "Luppe", Gerlinger is staying in the abandoned house with around two dozen other activists.

The protesters have barricaded the house, and the only way to reach the terrace is by climbing up a ladder. A grey flag with the words "Luetzerath lives" was flying over his head.

"Anyone who has something to contribute is very welcome. Everyone does what they can and together we try to create something," Luppe told Reuters.

The men said their families were worried about their safety but proud of them.

"My 13-year-old daughter said goodbye to me, Dad, but you mustn't die now. And I promised her that," Gerlinger said, fighting back tears.

The government, which includes the Greens party in a three-way coalition, has defended the mine project as a necessary short-term fix to the energy crisis.

But it has disappointed many supporters of the Greens, including Gerlinger who is a decades-long Greens voter.

"I think it's good that the Greens are taking part in government, that they've found the courage but I think it's a shame that they couldn't stay true to their principles," he said.

(Editing by Matthias Williams and Raissa Kasolowsky)