Greta Thunberg Detained by German Police for Protesting Coal Mine

Sophie Hirsh - Author

Jan. 17 2023, Updated 3:40 p.m. ET

Greta Thunberg may have just been a child when she first started participating in climate strikes and protests — but now, she's an adult of 20 years old, and she's being treated like one. At a protest in Germany on Tuesday, Greta Thunberg was detained by police, along with other climate activists.

And though some reports claim that Thunberg was arrested, the details are a bit fuzzy.

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Keep reading for everything we know so far about the nature of the protest, what happened to Greta Thunberg, and whether or not she was technically arrested.

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Was Greta Thunberg arrested? She protested a coal mine in Germany.

Since at least Friday, Jan. 14, 2023, Thunberg has been in Germany, participating in protests against the proposed demolition of the abandoned coal village of Lützerath, to make room for a new coal mine.

On Tuesday, Jan. 17, Thunberg was involved in a sit-in protest against the mine. Reuters initially reported that Thunberg was arrested at the protest, and was then seen being detained on a police bus. Extinction Rebellion also tweeted that Thunberg was arrested at the protest.

However, police reportedly told The BBC that Thunberg was not technically arrested, though she was detained. The Guardian also reported that she was only detained, not arrested.

The police also confirmed to The BBC that they would release her after checking her ID and confirming her identity, and that she would not be charged with breaking any laws.

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Though Reuters seems to have had reporters on-site at the protest, the news agency's claim that she was arrested seems to be exaggerated, and soon after publishing the article, Reuters quietly updated it to remove the word "arrested" from its headline. Therefore, it seems as though Thunberg was not technically arrested.

"Greta Thunberg was part of a group of activists who rushed towards the ledge [of the mine]," a local police spokesperson told Reuters, noting that one protestor had jumped right into the mine. "However, she was then stopped and carried by us with this group out of the immediate danger area to establish their identity."

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Photos and videos from the protest show Thunberg being carried away by three policemen — with a smirk on her face.

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Why are activists protesting the destruction of Lützerath?

As explained by CNN, Lützerath is a tiny village in the western part of Germany, not far from Dusseldorf. In 2017, all of its residents were evicted from their homes, after the German government and energy company RWE agreed on demolishing the town to make room for a new coal mine, since Lützerath sits atop a coal seam.

So, to prevent officials from going through with destroying Lützerath, thousands of activists have been occupying the area since Friday. As CNN noted, RWE plans construct a fence around the edge of Lützerath before beginning demolition — but the energy company cannot do this until police force all the protestors out.

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And it doesn't seem like protestors have any intention of backing down. If humanity wants wants any chance at mitigating the climate crisis, it's imperative that we keep fossil fuels in the ground. Building new coal mining sites, such as the proposed one in Lützerath, is a slap in the face for all the activists who have been trying to stop RWE.

Hopefully, these protests — along with having a high-profile climate activist like Thunberg present — will be successful in shutting this project down before it really begins.

This article was updated to include the fact that Reuters updated its article to reflect that Thunberg was in fact not arrested.

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