Greta Thunberg has joined the protests against the Lützerath coal mine

On 14th January, thousands of people protested against the expansion of the Lützerath coal mine. And the police detained Greta Thunberg.

  • Lützerath started emptying out in 2006 under pressure from the fossil industry, due to the presence of lignite in the area.
  • The German government, led by the Greens, gave the green light to the mine’s expansion, ignoring environmentalist protests.
  • Over the weekend there were further clashes between protesters and law enforcement and Greta Thunberg was detained by police officers.

Protests in Lützerath, Germany, did not stop during the weekend. The village, set to be destroyed to make way for a lignite coal mine, has been occupied for years by environmental activists aiming to hinder the mining project. Over the past week, law enforcement started to forcibly clear out protesters, but resistance has continued, with large demonstrations and clashes. Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, who took part in a picket line in the German village, was briefly detained by police.

What is happening in Lützerath

Lützerath is a village in North Rhine Westphalia (NRW) where dozens of families lived until the early 2000s, when pressure from the fossil fuel industry started to cause residents to move away. The village is set to be destroyed to make way for the expansion of a nearby 3,200-hectare lignite coal mine, managed by mega-corporation RWE.

In recent years, various environmental activists have occupied the homes and land in Lützerath to stop it from being destroyed on behalf of the fossil fuel industry. After many demonstrations and protests, on 12th January, police started to use force to clear out the village, even leading to physical clashes with activists. The demonstrators, however, were not to be intimidated by law enforcement tactics and are continuing their resistance, pointing the finger against the Greens, the majority party in the German government that greenlit the Lützerath coal mine project.

Greta Thunberg detained

On Saturday 14th January, a major demonstration saw thousands of people take to the streets of the small ghost town in NRW. According to organisers, attendance reached 35,000, while police say the figure was closer to 10,000 people.

As in the previous days, there were several moments of tension between officers and protesters, also due to the use of water cannons and pepper spray by police. Law enforcement reported that 70 officers were injured and some were trapped in the quicksand caused by the mining activity, which leaves the soil soft and soggy. There were also injuries among the protesters, some serious, and Aachen police stated that it was a miracle that there were no deaths, given the dangerous conditions of the soil, compromised by decades of mining.

Prominent activists at the international level such as Luisa Neubauer from Fridays for Future, as well as Greta Thunberg, took part in the protests on Saturday. Thunberg, who refused to leave after being asked by police, was forcibly removed and briefly detained. The environmental activist pointed the finger at the German government and said that “we must keep fighting, there’s still time”. She called the use of violence by police “outrageous“. On Sunday 15th January, Greta Thunberg returned to the village, continuing to protest alongside the other activists who remain in the village.

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