BERLIN, Sept. 14 (Xinhua) -- Police on Friday continued clearing tree houses in western Germany's Hambach forest which has been occupied by opponents and activists of lignite mining since 2012.
With a massive contingent including officers trained for altitude operations, the police cleared four tree houses and obstacles out of the way until nightfall on Thursday. Numerous police officers continued to be present in the area after dark.
A spokesman for the Aachen police confirmed that the evacuation will continue this Friday, with several hundreds of police at the scene again early this morning.
The German state of North Rhine Westphalia (NRW) is home to the largest lignite coal deposit (55 billion tons) in Europe. The Hambach mine, operated by RWE, Germany's leading electricity provider, is the world's largest opencast lignite mine.
Starting in the 1970s the displacement and resettlements of homes, air pollution and environmental destruction caused by the "migrating mine" has triggered resistance including citizen initiatives and mass-protests, chief among them, the tree houses in the Hambach forest.
On Thursday evening, several dozen opponents of brown coal managed to get into the forest despite the massive police presence. According to police, an estimated 40 to 50 protesters ran off. They were loudly welcomed by the activists living in tree houses. More than 1,000 people, among them families with children, took part in an approved protest against the eviction.
The energy company RWE has confirmed its intention to continue the controversial deforestation of the Hambach forest.
The authorities did not cite the planned lignite mining as the reason for the eviction. Rather, the NRW construction ministry argued that the tree houses lacked fire protection, and among other things, there was said to be a lack of rescue ladders.
Environmental activists, for example from the organisation "Ende Gelaende", regard this as a fake argument. However, the administrative court of Cologne sided with the authorities and rejected an emergency request against the evacuation.
The police accused the activists of firing at them with slingshots and throwing Molotov cocktails at them. A policy officer was slightly injured and a RWE company car damaged. In several places, peaceful protesters staged sit-ins to block roads.
The interior minister of NRW Herbert Reul has defended the eviction against criticism. "The state must assert itself," Reul said on Friday on Deutschlandfunk radio, arguing that the authorities are now taking action against the tree houses that have been tolerated for years.