BERLIN-Protesters here, police there — one group wants to stop coal mining, the other is trying to stop them. Protests, a ritual in the Rhineland, are getting help from the Fridays for Future movement, as Peter Hille reports.

The site could be an idyllic stretch of countryside, were it not for the giant Garzweiler lignite strip mine. Parallel to the road stands a row of excavators that devour the landscape, insatiably chewing up earth to get to the lignite, or brown coal, that lies beneath the surface.

The machines are owned by the energy giant RWE, and are the reason the group of hundreds, perhaps thousands of activists are here. The activists are part of the organization Ende Gelände (End of the Line), which protests for climate protection and against strip mining.

Sina Reisch, sporting round glasses and unruly blonde hair, is one of them, “Today, some of us will commit ourselves to storming the pit and stop the mining,” she tells DW.

Reisch says the massive amounts of coal stripped from the Rhine district make it Europe’s biggest source of environmentally devastating CO2 emissions. She says despite the fact that scientists have long known about the negative effects of climate change, the government still refuses to take action.

“That’s why we have decided to take things into our own hands. We are going to use our bodies to stop it,” says Reisch.

But the parade of activists is not alone: Hundreds of police are there to keep them from accessing the pit. The mine is the property of RWE, and anyone who enters the area is guilty of trespassing. Police also say that climbing down into the pit could be deadly.

Some 20 police vans creep along in a column behind the activists, a helicopter rattles away as it circles overhead and mounted police are there as well.

With brightly colored protest banners on one side and horses and uniformed police on the other, the scene is strangely reminiscent of a Catholic holy day procession meandering through the countryside in the sunshine.

The activists are almost as well-organized as the police. The red section is here on the L277, and the gold, pink and multicolored sections are trying to access the pit in other areas. The activists stop every once in a while to pop up umbrellas and gold-silver emergency blankets, in an attempt to create a bit of shade for themselves.