LÜTZERATH, Germany — Climate protesters clashed with German police on Saturday in a continuing standoff over the demolition of this German village for the expansion of a coal mine. Greta Thunberg joined the activists in demonstrating at the site.
In chaotic scenes, thousands of protesters confronted a wall of heavily armored police on the perimeter of the village in North Rhine-Westphalia. The demonstrators stormed the police, forcing them back while being sprayed with pepper spray.
Ambulances were treating injured protesters at the site. An organizer from the Extinction Rebellion group said there had been “heavy” confrontations with the police.
Police put the size of the protest, which took place amid high winds and rain, at 8,000 to 10,000 people. But there was no immediate confirmation about the injuries.
Addressing the protest, Thunberg claimed the crowd was 35,000 strong.
The Swedish activist called a deal between the German government and energy company RWE to destroy the village “shameful.”
Police had been working to clear activists from the site to make way for the demolition of the village, which has become the epicenter of demonstrations against the Garzweiler coal mine, run by RWE.
Tensions have increased in recent weeks, with the issue being particularly sensitive for Germany’s Greens, who have spent years being heavily critical of coal mining but have come under fire for softening their stance since entering the coalition government.
Many members of the Greens oppose the mine’s expansion, but Economy Minister Robert Habeck has called the coal under the village vital as the country faces an unprecedented energy crisis due to Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Climate activists with the Fridays for Future group have accused the Greens of abusing “the energy crisis to legitimize their controversial decision” on Lützerath.
Gabriel Rinaldi contributed reporting.