German energy company RWE (ETR:RWEG_p) announced Wednesday that it will begin demolishing a former settlement to expand an open-pit lignite mine and urged protesters to end a sit-in that has highlighted tensions over climate policy.
Demonstrators, many wearing masks or balaclavas, protest against the Garzweiler mine in the abandoned village of Luetzerath in North Rhine-Westphalia.
They have formed human chains, organized sit-ins and occupied abandoned buildings in Luetzerath, which will be razed to make way for the expansion of the mine. Some barricaded themselves in holes in the ground, while others hung themselves from wooden tripods.
“Today, RWE Power will begin demolishing the former settlement of Luetzerath,” the company said in a statement.
The protest comes after a regional court on Monday upheld an earlier decision to evict the village, whose land and houses now belong to RWE.
On Tuesday, police began dismantling barricades and dragged protest activists away. They urged protesters to avoid violence and exercise restraint, saying some activists had started assaulting officers and throwing stones in recent days.
“RWE calls on squatters to respect the rule of law and peacefully end the illegal occupation of buildings, plants and sites belonging to RWE,” RWE said.
“No one should endanger their own health and life by engaging in illegal activity,” he added.
The protests highlight rising tensions over Berlin’s climate policy, which environmentalists say took a back seat during the energy crisis that hit Europe last year following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, forcing a return to dirtier fuels.