Over the past week, police have taken brutal steps to suppress ecological movements in Europe and the United States. In Germany, police evicted and destroyed the long-occupied village of Lützerath in a massive operation in order to expand an ecologically devastating open pit coal mine. Today, in Atlanta, Georgia, police murdered a person in the course of their efforts to evict and destroy the Weelaunee Forest.
Those who stood up to the police in Lützerath are fighting for a future for all human beings and living things. Whatever immediate justifications capitalist profiteers may offer for seeking to extract and burn more coal, keeping the earth inhabitable is more important.
Likewise, we are deeply moved by the courage of those who continue to defend the forest in Atlanta, even after police have demonstrated that they will commit murder to evict it. If our species is able to survive the ecological catastrophe that industrial capitalism is bringing about, it will chiefly be due to the courage of such brave and selfless individuals.
In the following photoessay, a witness of the events in Lützerath documents the clashes that unfolded between police and climate activists.
We have also prepared a poster identifying the responsibility of the authorities for the ongoing catastrophes inflicted by industrially driven climate change.
Lützerath: Before the Assault
The following photographs are from January 9 to 13, documenting the eviction.
The tunnel posed the police significant problems during the assault. Eventually, the corporation RWE redefined the eviction as a “rescue operation” in order to force the fire department to be responsible for evicting the activists.
The two activists who occupied the tunnel delayed the eviction for several days. After at least four days in the tunnel, the activists exited more or less voluntarily. When they did so, they were the last occupants of Lützerath.
Geräumte Träume, “evicted dreams, “ is a pun in German. The destruction of the occupation of Lützerath clears the way for the fossil fuel industry to wreak more havoc on the climate, but this place was also a partially realized effort to create an alternative model showing what life could be without the violence of police and the pressure to compete within capitalism. In that regard, the eviction also represents an attack on an attempt to demonstrate the virtues of a life free of domination.
Immediately after the eviction of Eckhardt’s farm, the last official residence in Lützerath, police demolished the yard in order to destroy any symbols of resistance. The surrounding houses were destroyed over the following days.
Many of the security guards and workers employed by RWE in the demolition arrived in Germany as migrants or come from Eastern European countries.
Demonstration: Saturday, January 14
On Saturday, January 14, more than 35,000 people particapated in a demonstration against the eviction of Lützerath.
Immediately after arriving at the rally site, participants made their way to the fence around Lützerath. Spontaneously, many attempted to break through the police lines. Police responded by brutally striking demonstrators, often aiming for their heads. In what appears to be a new police tactic, many officers made a point of manually striking demonstrators directly in the larynx, so that these assaults might appear to be mere “pushing” when captured by the cameras of photojournalists.
After the police managed to stop the first attempt to break through their lines, organized groups joined in the confrontations and succeeded in pushing the first line of cops back to the fence.
There, the second wave also came to a halt.
After the clashes of January 14, footage circulated widely showing a person dressed as a monk—popularly dubbed the “mud wizard”—facing off with hapless riot police. See appendix I for more details about the international adventures of this mysterious figure.
Decentralized Actions: Tuesday, January 17
For Tuesday, January 17, the alliance Lützerath Unräumbar (“Lützerath cannot be evicted”) called for decentralized actions.
One action group occupied the rails that supply coal to the coal power plant Neurath II.
At the same time, people occupied a coal excavator in the Inden open pit mine and one in the Hambach open pit mine.
A group called The Last Generation blocked RWE access roads, while another group blocked RWE trucks with a sit-in blockade.
At Lützerath, some people attempted to break out of a demonstration surrounded by police to reach the fence.
In Düsseldorf, Extinction Rebellion mobilized in front of the Ministry of the Interior.
Appendix I: Tracking the Adventures of the Mud Wizard from the ZAD to Lützerath
Footage circulated widely showing a person dressed as a monk—popularly dubbed the “mud wizard”—facing off with hapless riot police during the clashes in Lützerath on January 14.
In fact, this mysterious figure had already appeared in 2018, during the defense of the ZAD (the “Zone to Defend,” a longtime occupied area where the residents blocked the construction of an airport) at Notre-Dame-des-Landes.
According to le Monde, the police ambushed the monk among a group of other defenders. The monk threw buckets of water at the police, proclaiming “I baptize you in the name of the ZAD!” In the ensuing chaos, he made off with one of their batons.
Reportedly, at the ZAD, the same monk was later seen chanting “disarm them” with the liberal retirees while holding the baton he had taken from the cops.
Victory to the mud wizards! Defend the earth!
Appendix II: A Poster
In response to the police violence in Lützerath and Atlanta, we have prepared a poster identifying the responsibility of the authorities for the ongoing catastrophes inflicted by industrially driven climate change.
As climate change approaches the point of no return, remember—after September 11, 2001, the FBI declared that environmental activists were enemy #1.
As temperatures soar, remember how politicians passed legislation to protect fossil fuel profiteers.
As hurricanes pummel the coast, remember how the cops swabbed pepper spray into protesters’ eyes.
As flash floods destroy towns, remember all the people they brutalized at Standing Rock.
As forests go up in smoke, remember how riot police charged the crowds so they could expand the open-pit mine at #Lutzerath.
As the polar ice caps melt, remember how prosecutors charged young people with terrorism for trying to protect the environment that we all depend on.
Remember who is responsible.
If not for their violence, we could have dealt with the ones who are driving climate change long ago.
In return for a few dollars, they are forcing the end of the world on us.