Chanting "we are unstoppable, another world is possible," thousands of activists in Germany set off Friday to occupy a coal mine as tens of thousands of other demonstrators mobilized in a separate German city as part of the swelling "Fridays for Future" climate actions.
Activists Organizers with Ende Gelände (EG) mobilization say that roughly 4,000 people departed their protest camp in the western city of Viersen to head to the Garzweiler surface mine, operated by energy company RWE, some 12 miles (20 kilometers) away.
"Today we set out with thousands of people towards a future without fossil fuels, without exploitation, and without this destructive quest for infinite economic growth," said EG spokesperson Sina Reis, in a statement.
Two waves of protesters were scheduled to set off Friday, said organizers, with a third expected to depart Saturday as part of a weekend of countrywide anti-coal actions.
The blockades mark the sixth action of its kind that EG has undertaken, Agence France-Presse reported earlier this week. The reporting also noted:
In the Rhineland coalfield region, RWE operates three huge open-cast mines and three power plants which are among Europe's dirtiest.
Merkel's government has pledged to phase out coal by 2038—a time horizon the protest movement rejects as far too long as global warming is melting ice caps and glaciers, raising ocean levels and exacerbating extreme weather events.
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"Nothing less than our future is at stake. We will definitely not wait until 2038 to phase out coal, we are acting now," said another EG spokesperson, Nike Malhaus.
"If we keep burning coal for another twenty years, it is impossible to stay within the 1.5°C limit," added Malhaus. "Today we are taking the coal phase out into our own hands because the government is failing to protect the climate."
The call for urgent climate action was amplified Friday in Germany's southwest.
In the city of Aachen, which sits near the Belgium and the Netherlands borders, an estimated 40,000 strong Fridays for Future rally, boasting participants from over a dozen countries, took place. There, protesters voiced their messages with chants including "Hey hey, ho ho, climate change has got to go," and banners with messages such as "Your greed costs us our future."
Youth activists with Fridays for Future announced their backing of the Ende Gelände actions—a fact that climate mobilization 350.org, in a press statement Thursday on the weekend's "historical climate protests in Germany's coal region," said was worth noting.
"This is a first," 350 said, "and it sends a powerful message to the German government—if leaders don't act with urgency required by the climate crisis, we're prepared to take the future into our own hands!"