Greta Thunberg and a 'mud wizard' faced off against German cops to protest a coal deal with the country's largest energy company

  • Climate activists in Germany are protesting a coal deal between energy company RWE and the Green party.
  • On Saturday, police evicted thousands of protesters who had gathered in the settlement of Lützerath.
  • Protesters used delayed officers in deep mud but were met with “pure violence,” organizers said.

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Climate change activists in Germany braved deep mud and “pure violence,” organizers say, as they faced off against police on Saturday to protest an energy deal that will raze the abandoned village of Lützerath to expand a coal pit. 

Thousands of protesters — among them, Swedish activist Greta Thunberg and a person dressed as some kind of wizard— attempted to protect the coal beneath Lützerath from being mined by setting up barricades and treehouses, using rope systems to evade capture, and ensnaring officers in deep mud. 

Portions of the confrontation circulated on Reddit, with the mud wizard appearing to taunt officers who had fallen or became stuck in the mud, though the demonstration was not as peaceful as it was portrayed in some social media posts

France24 reported that Indigo Drau, a spokeswoman for the organizers of the protest, said during a Sunday press conference that police approached demonstrators with “pure violence” and “unrestrainedly” beat them, often on the head.

Police estimate 15,000 protesters were present at the demonstration on Saturday, though organizers estimate that number closer to 35,000 according to reports. At least 20 activists were taken to hospital for treatment of injuries received during the clash, France24 reported Birte Schramm, a medic with the group said.

Though some stragglers remain in the area, most of the activists were ultimately removed and the demolition of Lützerath is underway, Politico reported.

The deal, made between the left-leaning political Green party and the largest German coal company, RWE, has been toted as a climate-saving agreement by the politicians who brokered it. While the deal lays the groundwork to phase out coal in Germany by 2030, it allows RWE to demolish Lützerath as part of the company’s plan to expand the Garzweiler mine located nearby.

ERKELENZ, GERMANY - JANUARY 13: Police in riot gear carry away an activist out of the settlement of Luetzerath on January 13, 2023 near Erkelenz, Germany. Police have been evicting environmental activists who have occupied the abandoned Luetzerath settlement and who are seeking to prevent Luetzerath's demolition that will make way for an expansion of the adjacent Garzweiler II open cast coal mine. Of the several hundred activists on site approximately a few dozen remain, some in a house and others in tree houses or attached to poles. The North Rhine-Westphalia state government of German Christian Democrats (CDU) and Greens has approved the demolition and the coal mine expansion, while at the same time announcing an accelerated phase out of coal-fired energy production in the state from 2028 to 2030. Other nearby settlements that were also slated for demolition will now be spared, though critics point out that Germany has sufficient energy production capacity and does not need the coal lying beneath Luetzerath. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Police in riot gear carry away an activist out of the settlement of Luetzerath on January 13, 2023 near Erkelenz, Germany.
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

“It’s a gut punch that Green ministers now try to sell this backroom coal deal as a success,” Politico reported Olaf Bandt, the chair of the non-governmental German Federation for the Environment and Nature Conservation, said. “We won’t accept that.”

Robert Habeck, Germany’s economy and climate minister — and a member of the Green party that helped complete the deal — said in a video posted to Twitter that the agreement is a “painful” but necessary compromise caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine that has forced Germany to reboot its coal plants. 

Critics argue that Germany has enough coal reserves without accessing the brown coal located beneath Lützerath and allowing RWE access to the coal will prevent Germany from meeting the CO2 budget that was agreed to with the Paris Agreement. 

15 January 2023, North Rhine-Westphalia, Erkelenz: Climate activist Greta Thunberg (r) stands between Keyenberg and Lützerath under police guard on the edge of the open pit mine and dances. The energy company RWE wants to excavate the coal lying under Lützerath - for this purpose, the hamlet on the territory of the city of Erkelenz at the opencast lignite mine Garzweiler II is to be demolished. Photo: Federico Gambarini/dpa (Photo by Federico Gambarini/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Climate activist Greta Thunberg (r) stands between Keyenberg and Lützerath under police guard on the edge of the open pit mine and dances.
Federico Gambarini/picture alliance via Getty Images

“Not all things around the climate crisis are black and white, but this is,” climate activist Luisa Neubauer posted on Twitter about the protests. “If we want to see a world with less crisis, we need the fossil fuel destruction to be stopped. And we need governments to hold fossil fuel companies accountable, to put people over fossil fuel profits.”

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