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Thousands protest in Germany against coal mine expansion

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ERKELENZ, Germany (AP) — Thousands of people demonstrated in persistent rain on Saturday to protest the clearance and demolition of a village in western Germany that is due to make way for the expansion of a coal mine.

Swedish climate campaigner Greta Thunberg joined the demonstrators as they protested the clearance of Luetzerath, walking through the nearby village of Keyenberg and past muddy fields. Protesters chanted “Every village stays” and “You are not alone.”

On the sidelines of the protest, police said people broke through their barriers and some got into the Garzweiler coal mine.

As the demonstration took place, the clearance of Luetzerath was well advanced.

The operation to evict climate activists holed up in the village kicked off on Wednesday morning. In the first three days of the operation, police said that about 470 people had left the site, 320 of them voluntarily.

They said on Friday afternoon that there were no longer any activists in the remaining buildings or on their roofs. German news agency dpa reported that they said Saturday they still had to tackle 15 “structures” such as tree houses and were trying to get into a tunnel in which two people were believed to be holed up. Work to demolish buildings was already underway.

Luetzerath has become a cause celebre for critics of Germany’s climate efforts.

Environmentalists say bulldozing the village to expand the Garzweiler mine would result in huge amounts of greenhouse gas emissions. The government and utility company RWE argue the coal is needed to ensure Germany’s energy security.

The regional and national governments, both of which include the environmentalist Green party, reached a deal with RWE last year allowing it to destroy the abandoned village in return for ending coal use by 2030, rather than 2038.

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