Riot police clear coal mine activists from abandoned German village

LUETZERATH, Germany, Jan 12 (Reuters) - Riot police backed by bulldozers removed scores of activists from buildings in an abandoned village in western Germany on Thursday in a second day of confrontations over the expansion of a coal mine.

Officers climbed ladders to reach protesters perched on roofs and walls in Luetzerath, which energy firm RWE (RWEG.DE) wants to clear to expand its Garzweiler lignite coal mine.

Some activists threw stones, bottles and firecrackers at police approaching a building with a pallet truck, though the demonstrations were largely peaceful.

Under heavy rain, protesters in white bodysuits chanted "People got the power" and "Luetzerath stays".

Demonstrators have been occupying the village in the brown-coal district of the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia for more than two years to try to stop the expansion.

More than a thousand police officers in riot gear moved in and started clearing barricades on Wednesday morning following a court decision allowing the development.

Police said they cleared one of the main buildings on Thursday. In their wake, bulldozers moved into the cleared areas, cutting trees and removing debris from parts of the site.

"The weather conditions are a big problem today. We now have to analyse carefully whether it is even possible today to clear tree houses without risk," Aachen police spokesperson Andrew Mueller said.

Protesters said hundreds of people were still holed up in the village, two of them in a tunnel under the site.

"We are ready to last here as long as possible and maybe even make it to Saturday so that all the people who are going to come to the demonstration will join us here," Milena Glimbovski, a 32-year-old activist, said.

Climate campaigner Greta Thunberg plans to join the demonstration on Saturday, according to the Luetzerathlebt environmentalist group.

Police said on Tuesday it could take weeks to resolve the standoff over the coal mine expansion, which activists see as a symbol of Berlin's failing climate policy amid an energy crisis in Europe's biggest economy.

The Garzweiler mine extracts around 25 million tonnes of lignite every year, according to RWE. The company has said it supports both energy transition and a temporary increase in the use of lignite-fired plants to tide Germany through the energy crisis.

Reporting by Riham Alkousaa and Wolfgang Rattay, editing by Rachel More, Raissa Kasolowsky and Andrew Heavens

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Riham Alkousaa is the energy and climate change correspondent for Reuters in Germany, covering Europe’s biggest economy's green transition and Europe’s energy crisis. Alkousaa is a Columbia University Journalism School graduate and has 10 years of experience as a journalist covering Europe’s refugee crisis and the Syrian civil war for publications such Der Spiegel Magazine, USA Today and the Washington Times. Alkousaa was on two teams that won Reuters Journalist of the year awards in 2022 for her coverage of Europe’s energy crisis and the Ukraine war. She has also won the Foreign Press Association Award in 2017 in New York and the White House Correspondent Association Scholarship that year.

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Born 1960 in Bad Ems Germany. First published images in 1978 for Rhein Zeitung in Koblenz. From 1980 to 1985 freelancer for The Associated Press in Frankfurt and Munich. Joined Reuters News Pictures at its very beginning in 1985 following Reuters' take-over of UPI. Chief Photographer Germany from 1996-2004. Since 2004 senior specialist photographer with various multi-skilled tasks and responsibilities such as managing teams, organising and editing major events and assignments.