Greta Thunberg: climate activist detained by police during anti-coal protest in Luetzerath, Germany

It is the second time in three days that environmental activist Greta Thunberg has been detained by police.

Greta Thunberg has been detained by police during an environmental protest in Germany.

The 20-year-old climate activist was carried away by riot police officers after taking part in demonstrations against the demolition of the village of Luetzerath, which is set to be cleared to make way for the expansion of a local coal mine, Garzweiler. It comes after Thunberg was removed from the same site on Sunday (15 January), following similar protests.

The German Government gave the green light for the demolition after deciding it would help ensure short-term energy security. But climate activists have been opposing the move - with thousands flocking to the site on Saturday (14 January), where there were clashes with the police.

Activists argue that the bulldozing of the village would result in huge amounts of greenhouse gas emissions from the mined fossil fuels. They also say that lignite, the form of coal being used, is the most harmful to health.

Greta Thunberg has been detained by police after taking part in protests against the expansion of a coal mine. Credit: Getty Images

Luetzerath has been the epicentre of Germany’s climate debate for years, but the fight has only truly come to a head in the last month or so as activists set up in the village. Police started to evict protesters on 11 January by removing roadblocks, chopping down treehouses, and bulldozing buildings.

There have been several clashes between protesters and the police, with activists accusing riot officers of “pure violence”. Police have said they had to use force to stop some people from nearing the danger zone at the edge of the excavation area.

Police in riot gear scuffle with protesters during confrontations near the settlement of Luetzerath on January 14, 2023 near Erkelenz, Germany. Credit: Getty Images

Thunberg told demonstrators on Saturday (14 January): “This is a betrayal of present and future generations... Germany is one of the biggest polluters in the world and needs to be held accountable.”

She then joined thousands in the march, holding a cardboard sign which said “Luetzi stays” in German, using a shortened name of the village.

Germany has had to adapt its attitude to the use of coal following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The country has in the past been heavily reliant on Russia for gas, but supplies to Europe have been reduced in response to European sanctions.

The government insists it is still committed to eliminating the use of coal in the long term, saying this is a short-term measure. However, environmental activists want the country to take immediate action on fossil fuels.