Erkelenz (dpa) – Several thousand people demonstrated at the Garzweiler opencast mine for a faster escape from lignite mining. During the protest, participants linked the four kilometers apart villages of Lützerath and Keyenberg with a human chain.

This should also symbolically indicate the mining boundary with which the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement can be achieved.

The Federation for the Environment and Nature Conservation Germany (BUND) and local organizations such as All Villages Stay, among others, called for the protest. The BUND said the number of demonstrators was 2,500. The police spoke of a “vigorous, peaceful protest”. 3000 participants were registered.

Take advantage of the criticism

The succession of demonstrators meandered in a colorful row, in accordance with the corona measures, through green meadows, past grassland and grazing cows. Numerous participants carried banners such as “Stop the lignite”, “Climate protection means abandon coal” or “Stop the destruction of green spaces”. In dry weather, many were on their bicycles.

Armin Laschet, the prime minister of North Rhine-Westphalia and candidate for the chancellor, has been criticized time and again. At the edge of the human chain, a large balloon with his portrait bobbed up and down in the wind.

“If we miss the opportunity here now, we will pay bitterly for it,” Verena Graichen said for the BUND. For Greenpeace, their energy expert Bastian Neuwirth demanded that the “dirty coal piles” be disconnected from the grid more quickly. This is where it is decided whether Germany will adhere to the Paris climate targets. A woman from a nearby town said the insecurity and pressure in the villages was almost unbearable.

Lützerath would be the first village in the Garzweiler opencast mine to disappear for the extraction of coal. Whether the villages of Keyenberg, Kuckum, Ober- and Unterwestrich and Berverath, which belong to the city of Erkelenz, should give way, has to be decided at the end of 2026. The operation of the three opencast mines in the Rheinische Revier will be phased out gradually and will end by 2038 at the latest.

Garzweiler new center of protests

The Hambacher Forest near the Hambach open-cast mine has long been the symbol of the protest against coal-fired electricity generation. But after it has been decided that the forest on the edge of the mining area will be preserved and that mining should stop sooner, “Hambi” is no longer central. Instead, the Garzweiler opencast mine with neighboring villages is the center of the protests. David Dresen, spokesperson for “Alle Dorpen Stay”, likes to see it: “I am glad that the resistance has shifted about this”.

The Aachen bishop Helmut Vom even spoke recently: he demanded an earlier decision to preserve the villages in the Rhineland lignite mining area. Another five years of uncertainty are hard for people to bear. An extension of Limbo would make people “pay with their happiness in life,” the Catholic pastor explained.