German police Thursday continued efforts to clear hundreds of climate protesters occupying the western village of Luetzerath to prevent the demolition of the town for the expansion of a coal mine.

Police began moving in Tuesday after a regional German court Monday rejected the last legal effort by the protesters to stop the demolition of the town located in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

Utility company RWE wants to extract coal beneath Luetzerath, which it says is necessary to ensure energy security in Germany. The company reached a deal with the regional government last year that allows the village to be destroyed in return for ending coal use by 2030, rather than 2038.

But the protesters — some of whom have occupied the town for as long as two years — say bulldozing the village to expand the nearby Garzweiler coal mine would result in huge amounts of greenhouse gas emissions. The government and the utility company argue that the coal is needed to ensure Germany’s energy security.

Though reports say many protesters have left voluntarily, there were reports of minor clashes with police that include rock throwing and fireworks. The Reuters news agency, quoting a local police spokesman, reported two people were detained and another three are in custody since the operation started.

Removing those who do not want to leave will not be an easy task, as the village has several houses and buildings where the protesters have holed up or have taken positions on rooftops.

A police press spokesperson told the French news agency AFP the operation “could last several weeks” with another demonstration planned for Saturday. High-profile figures, including Greta Thunberg, and other prominent climate campaigners are expected at the demonstration, lending reinforcements to the protesters.

Some information for this report came from the Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse. 

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