The Defense of Lützerath


A Photoessay and Poster Documenting Ecological Destruction and Resistance


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

In Lützerath, starting on the afternoon of January 4, activists and police faced off at the open pit mine. Protected by the police, the excavator run by German utility corporation RWE dug within 20 meters of the wall of Lützerath.

The Eviction

The following photographs are from January 9 to 13, documenting the eviction.

After some exhausting days, activists take a little break in Lützerath a day before the police raided the occupation.

In the village of Lützerath, activists occupied and barricaded most of the remaining buildings. Some chained themselves in a cellar.

Activists attempting to prevent police from constructing a fence around Lützerath. Eventually, the police succeeded in erecting a fence around the village in order to control the area as they set about evicting the occupation.

While pushing back activists on the L277 roadway in Luetzenrath, police nearly knocked over a tripod occupied by a demonstrator. Just as they did in their assaults on the occupations defending the Hambacher and Dannenröder forests, the police deliberately risked injuring activists.

Activists had built tree houses in many trees in anticipation of the massive police operation. These served as habitations while making it more difficult to evict the area, because only special police forces with climbing experience could carry out the eviction. Activists chained themselves inside some of these tree houses.

The banner on the tower reads “United for the Ogoni Nine. Burn Shell, not Oil.” The Ogoni Nine are a group of Nigerian widows who sued the oil corporation Shell after their husbands were executed by the Nigerian government following protests against pollution caused by oil leaks in the Niger Delta.

Cops evicting an activist from a wooden house. The houses are reminiscent of the improvised village (Hüttendorf) in Wendland during the 1980s, when anti-nuclear activists occupied the construction site for a planned nuclear waste storage facility in Gorleben. The Federal Border Guard and police evicted the Hüttendorf after a month-long standoff.

Activists face off with police. An architecture museum in Frankfurt asked to exhibit this hut after the eviction. However, because the corporation RWE does not want to leave any symbolism to the climate movement, the police demolished it.

Police evict an activist from a tree house by means of cherry pickers.

In order to avoid having to carry arrestees, police officers pushed them away in a wheelbarrow.

After the squatters announced that two people were occupying a tunnel, the police searched the entire area for the tunnel entrance. It took them several hours to find the entrance.

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.

Police evict two activists from a monopod while destroying everything around them.

The remains of the “tower” pictured above.

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.

Scenes of destruction following the raid.

Scenes of destruction following the raid.

The sticker reads “Disband the police.”

Artwork on the walls of Lützerath.

For over six hours, police held activists in a RWE vehicle. The arrestees were denied access to toilets for the entire time.

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.

Eckhardt’s farm.

Eckhardt’s farm.

Many of the security guards and workers employed by RWE in the demolition arrived in Germany as migrants or come from Eastern European countries.

Precarious employment paving the way for climate catastrophe.

Preparing for a long eviction, activists collected a lot of food. The police opted for a careless approach, repeatedly endangering human lives in order to carry out the eviction more quickly than expected.

Activists had painted a vast Pride flag on the wall of the “Paula” occupation. Police made a point of destroying it at the same time as Eckhardt’s yard.

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.

Demonstrators gathering on January 14.

Demonstrators facing off with police on January 14.

Police struggling to deal with airborn mud on January 14.

Police violently attacking demonstrators on January 14.

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.

Police clashing with demonstrators.

Demonstrators link arms as they face off with police.

As the old German chant goes, Hop hop hop. Schweinen im galop! “Hop hop hop! Swine in gallup!”

Police escort an injured officer away from the clashes.

Demonstrators face off with police.

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.

Police face off with demonstrators and a “mud wizard” in Lützerath. This is a longer cut of the video; a shorter version became quite a widespread meme.

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.

Demonstrators mobilizing on January 17.

Demonstrators occupying the rails that supply coal to the coal power plant Neurath II. The banner reads “Peace to the villages, war on coal”—a modification of the old slogan, “Peace to the villages, war on the palaces.”

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.

Demonstrators mobilizing on January 17.

Demonstrators mobilizing on January 17.

Further Reading

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.

A photograph of a demonstrator at the ZAD at Notre-Dame-des-Landes, facing off with riot police during their attempt to evict residents in 2018. Clad in a brown cowl belted with a length of rope, he holds aloft a police baton as if it were a crucifix while bearing some sort of improvised shield.

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.

Click on the image to download a PDF of the poster to print and distribute.

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.