Climate activist Greta Thunberg was arrested by German police on Tuesday at a protest over the expansion of a coal mine in the west German village of Lützerath. This marks the second time that Thunberg has been detained at the site, according to a police spokesperson. The protest was organized against the razing of the village, which would make way for an expansion of the Garzweiler lignite coal mine, owned by European energy giant RWE.
The expansion of the mine is a significant concern for climate activists, as they argue that continuing to burn coal for energy will increase planet-warming emissions and violate the Paris Climate Agreement’s ambition to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Lignite is the most polluting type of coal, which itself is the most polluting fossil fuel.
Thunberg was part of a large group of protesters who broke through a police barrier and encroached on a coal pit, which authorities had not been able to secure entirely. The police were concerned that the “masses of protesters” could set the ground in motion after it had been softened by rainfall during the last few days. Therefore, officers intervened, removing people from the “danger area” and detaining them, one of whom was Thunberg.
The police spokesperson stated that Thunberg did not receive any special treatment and did not resist arrest. Thunberg had been the main speaker at the rally on Saturday and had “surprisingly” returned to protest on Sunday and Tuesday, when she was detained both times. The group detained on Tuesday was set to be released later in the day.
Thunberg joined thousands of other activists and protesters taking part in weekend demonstrations against the razing of the German village. Once the eviction is complete, RWE plans to build a 1.5-kilometer perimeter fence around the village, sealing off the village’s buildings, streets and sewers before they are demolished.
Thunberg tweeted on Friday that she was in Lützerath to protest the expansion and asked others to join. On Saturday, Thunberg addressed the activists, stating “The carbon is still in the ground. And as long as the carbon is in the ground, this struggle is not over.” She also emphasized the need to stop the current destruction of the planet and sacrificing people to benefit short-term economic growth and corporate greed.
Clashes between the activists and police have been ongoing this month, with police wearing riot gear to remove the demonstrators. Some of the protesters have been in Lützerath for more than two years, occupying the homes abandoned by former residents after they were evicted to make way for the mine.
Despite RWE and Germany’s Green party rejecting the claim that the mine expansion will increase overall emissions, several climate reports have made it clear the need to accelerate clean energy and transition away from fossil fuels. A recent report by international research platform Coal Transitions found that even if coal plants operate at very high capacity until the end of this decade, they already have more coal available than needed from existing supplies.