Protests against razing of German forest

Thousands of activists have rallied against a plan to raze an ancient German forest for a coalmine.
Thousands of activists have rallied against a plan to raze an ancient German forest for a coalmine.

Thousands have protested around a forest in Germany in an attempt to stop an energy company from razing the woods so it can start mining coal, authorities say.

The centuries-old Hambacher Forest was cordoned off by police as they continued to search for activists hiding in trees and tunnels, following 34 arrests on Saturday.

Police said more than 2000 protesters gathered on Sunday on fields and paths at the edge of the forest, while eyewitnesses put the number at several thousand.

Several hundred cars from various cities lined the roads, according to a DPA reporter at the scene. Some of the protesters brought trees to plant in sections of the forest that have already been cleared.

RWE, the German energy company that owns the area, wants to cut down large swathes of Hambacher Forest, located to the southeast of the colossal Hambach open cast mine in the western German state of North Rhine Westphalia, to mine brown coal.

But the woods contain centuries-old beech and oak trees and are home to a protected species of bat.

Environmental activists occupied the forest six years ago, according to the Hambi Bleibt (Hambi Stays) campaign group, building treehouses and tunnels.

Police began clearing their camp on Thursday, demanding the activists leave their dwellings.

On Saturday, nine of those removed suffered injuries. Another 62 people were ordered to leave the area, according to a police spokesperson from the nearby city of Aachen.

Australian Associated Press