Chaotic scenes played out in and around one of Germany’s biggest lignite mines when hundreds of environmental activists dressed in white overalls broke cordons and clashed with riot police.
Protesters stormed the open-pit mine operated by energy giant RWE in the state of North-Rhine Westphalia on Saturday, demanding urgent action on climate change to make the European Union carbon neutral.
Ignoring police warnings that the mine is prone to landslides and that the avalanche of activists could well trigger one, protesters broke police lines and made their way down, facing off with mine workers in the process.
Video by RT’s Ruptly video agency shows police rounding up some of the activists and pinning them to the ground, while others continue their run unimpeded.
The protest was part of the Ende Gelande (End of the Line) movement, which started off in 2015 when some 1,500 activists blocked this very mine. The facility that produces lignite, or brown coal, became the focus of outrage after its operator unveiled plans to log a forest to expand it.
Many of the activists were carrying sleeping bags and brandishing flags and banners with environmental slogans.
Police later said that the protesters were taken out of the mine on special vehicles provided by RWE, noting that it was the “safest option.”
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The anti-coal protests have gripped the German energy industry since Wednesday and are set to continue on Sunday. In a statement, the activists said that some 4,000 demonstrators would take part in the protests to block coal mines in western Germany in three waves.
Earlier on Friday, some 500 people blocked the supply of coal to the lignite-fired power station in Neurath, North Rhine-Westphalia, by staging a rally right on the rail tracks. The activists sang songs, beat drums and chanted as they refused to allow the transportation of the fossil fuel.
The protesters, who joined forces with the ‘Fridays for Future’ climate movement, are angry with the pace of Germany’s coal phase-out that is planned for 2038.
“Nothing less than our future is at stake.