Around 6,000 protesters, including climate activist Greta Thunberg, marched through mud and rain to the German town of Lützerath on Saturday, according to police estimates, to protest against the expansion of an open-pit lignite mine.

The village cleanup in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia was agreed between RWE and the government in a deal that allowed the energy giant to demolish Lützerath in exchange for its faster exit from coal and save five villages originally slated for the destruction.

«This is a betrayal of present and future generations… Germany is one of the biggest polluters in the world and must be held accountable,» Thunberg said at a podium, after marching holding a cardboard sign reading in German «Lützi is is left over». ”, using an abbreviated name of the town.

Image: Greta Thunberg joins the Luetzerath protest
Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg at a protest march over the pending demolition of the Lützerath settlement, Germany, on Saturday. Sean Gallup/Getty Images

As the protesters approached the village, they were confronted by riot police and some used batons to push the protesters back.

Regional police said on Twitter that they had used force to prevent people from breaking through the barriers and approaching the danger zone at the edge of the excavation area.

Police last week evicted protesters from buildings they have occupied for nearly two years in an attempt to stop the expansion of the nearby mine.

On Saturday, only a few remained camping in tree houses and in an underground tunnel, but thousands turned out to protest against the mine, which activists say symbolizes the failure of Berlin’s climate policy.

North Rhine-Westphalia’s president told German radio Deutschlandfunk on Saturday that energy policy «wasn’t always pretty» but that coal was needed more than ever in light of the energy crisis facing Europe’s largest economy. Europe.

Economy Minister Robert Habeck told Spiegel on Friday that Lützerath was the «wrong symbol» to protest against.

“It is the last place where lignite will be mined, not a symbol of more of the same, but of the last frontier.”

But activists have said Germany should stop mining brown coal and focus instead on expanding renewables.