German police purify anti-coal miners amid reports of violence

BERLIN (Reuters) – German police said on Sunday they were close to completing the removal of climate activists from a German village that will be destroyed to make room for coal mine expansion.

Both sides accused each other of violence.

In an operation that began on Wednesday, hundreds of officers and riot police cleared about 300 activists from the village of Lützerath in western Germany.

The evacuation was initially supposed to last for weeks, but police said on Sunday that only two of them remained in the village, holed up in an underground building.

“There are no more activists in Luzerat,” they said.

The site, which has become a symbol of resistance to fossil fuels, drew thousands of protesters on Saturday, including Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg.

The movement’s organizers claimed that 35,000 people had gathered there, while the police estimated their number at 15,000.

The protests centered on the extension of an open-pit mine, which would lead to the disappearance of Lützerath, in the Rhine basin, between Düsseldorf and Cologne.

On Sunday, several protesters accused the police of “violently” suppressing their gathering the day before, which degenerated into clashes that left dozens of police and protesters injured.

A spokeswoman for Indigo Draw, which organized the parade, accused the police of “pure violence” during a press conference. She said the officers beat the activists “without restraint,” including hitting them in the head.

Dozens of injuries, some of them serious, were reported among the demonstrators. Twenty have been hospitalized, according to a nurse from the activist group, Bert Schramm.

On Sunday, police said about 70 of their officers were injured the day before.

“The projectiles targeted us with stones, mud and explosives,” spokesman Andreas Mueller told AFP.

The police said that several police vehicles were damaged, particularly by stone throwing, and a large number of police vehicle tires were also punctured.

Investigations were opened in about 150 cases of resisting police officers, damaging property or disturbing public order.

12 people were arrested or detained.

Many activists hid inside treehouses and on rooftops in order to complicate evacuations.

Police said the situation on the ground became “very calm” again on Sunday.

The eviction in Luzerat was politically sensitive for the coalition of social democrat Olaf Scholz, who governs with environmentalists, who have been accused by campaigners of betraying their commitments.

The German government regards the extension of the mine operated by giant RWE as essential to energy security, which must compensate for disruptions to Russian gas shipments.

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