Greta Thunberg joins rally to save German village

Climate activist Greta Thunberg will join a large-scale protest in Germany Saturday to stop the demolition of a village to make way for an open-cast coal mine extension.

In an operation launched earlier this week, hundreds of police have been working to remove activists, who have already occupied the hamlet of Luetzerath in western Germany.

Between 20 and 40 climate militants were still holed up in the contested village on Friday evening, a spokeswoman for the protest movement told AFP.

Authorities said they were entering the final stages of evacuating the activists. In just a few days, a large part of the protesters' camp has been cleared by police and its occupants evacuated.

Demolition works were progressing slowly on the buildings that had been emptied, while surrounding trees were felled, an AFP journalist saw on Friday.

Luetzerath, deserted for some time by its original inhabitants, is set to disappear to make way for the extension of the adjacent open-cast coal mine, one of the largest in Europe, operated by energy firm RWE.

Large numbers of protesters -- Thunberg among them -- are expected to assemble on Saturday close to the village, which has become a symbol of resistance against fossil fuels.

The Swedish activist visited the site on Friday ahead of the meeting.

"Against the evacuation -- for an end to coal and climate justice," is the rallying call for the protest, which is set to start at midday (1100 GMT) Saturday.

- Energy crisis -

Police reinforcements have come from across the country to participate in the forced evacuation.

In the village, many of the activists have built structures high up in the trees, while others have climbed to the top of abandoned buildings and barns.

Likewise, activists said they had dug a tunnel under the hamlet in a bid to complicate the evacuation effort.

The movement has been supported by protest actions across Germany. On Friday, masked activists set fire to bins and painted slogans on the offices of the Greens in Berlin.

The party -- part of Germany's ruling coalition with Chancellor Olaf Scholz's Social Democrats and the liberal FDP -- has come under heavy criticism from activists who accuse it of betrayal.

Following the energy crisis set off by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the government has brought old coal power plants back online.

Officials also signed a compromise deal with RWE that made way for the demolition of Luetzerath but spared five nearby villages.

The energy firm also agreed to stop producing electricity with coal in western Germany by 2030, eight years earlier than previously planned.

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