Hundreds of police began clearing climate protesters out of an abandoned village on Wednesday in a showdown over the expansion of an opencast lignite mine that has highlighted tensions around Germany’s climate policy during an energy crisis. The protesters formed human chains, made a makeshift barricade out of old containers and chanted “we are here, we are loud, because you are stealing our future” as police in helmets moved in. Some threw rocks, bottles and pyrotechnics. Police also reported protesters were throwing petrol bombs. The demonstrators, wearing masks, balaclavas or biosuits, have been protesting against the Garzweiler mine, run by energy firm RWE in the village of Luetzerath in the brown-coal district of the Western state of North Rhine-Westphalia. ‘Bitter but necessary’: more coal for Germany amid Russia gas supply drop Economy Minister Robert Habeck of the Greens called for no further violence after police and protesters scuffled. “Leave it at that – from both sides,” he told reporters. Police say the stand-off could take weeks to resolve. As the officers moved in, some activists perched on the roofs or the windows of the abandoned buildings, chanting and shouting slogans. Others hung suspended from wires and wooden frames, or were holed up in tree houses to make it harder for police to dislodge them after a court ruling allowed for the demolition of the village now otherwise empty of residents and owned by RWE. Police, who had water cannon trucks on standby, led away and carried some protesters from the site. The project has underscored Germany’s dilemma over climate policy, which environmentalists say has taken a back seat during the energy crisis that has hit Europe after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, forcing a return to dirtier fuels. It is particularly sensitive for the Greens party, now back in power as part of Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s coalition government after 16 years in opposition. Many Greens oppose the mine’s expansion, but Habeck has been the face of the government’s decision. Police have urged the protesters to leave the area and remain peaceful. “It’s a big challenge for the police and we need a lot of special forces here to deal with the situation. We have aerial rescue specialists,” said police spokesperson Andreas Mueller. “These are all factors that make it difficult to tell how long this will last. We expect it to continue for a least several weeks.” An eyewitness saw police using heavy machinery to start dismantling high barricades. RWE said earlier on Wednesday it would start to dismantle Luetzerath, and had begun building a fence around the area. The fallout of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has prompted Scholz’s government to change course on previous policies. Those include firing up mothballed coal power plants and extending the lifespan of nuclear power stations after Russia cut gas deliveries to Europe in an energy stand-off that sent prices soaring. The government has, however, brought forward the date when all brown coal power plants will be shut down in North Rhine-Westphalia, to 2030 from 2038, acceding to a campaign promise from the Greens.