Greta Thunberg free after brief detention at German mine protest

Climate activist Greta Thunberg released after brief detention at German mine protest
Police officers detain climate activist Greta Thunberg, Germany, January 17, 2023, credit: Reuters/Wolfgang Rattay

Climate activist Greta Thunberg was arrested alongside other activists on Tuesday during protests against the destruction of the village of Lützerath to make way for a coal mine expansion. She was released after an identity check, according to German police.

The village of Lützerath in the western German state of North Rhine-Westphalia is being cleared to expand the mine. The German government allowed the mine’s owner, energy company RWE, to destroy the village of Lützerath.

The village is located next to a large area where brown coal -also known as lignite- is mined. Lignite is bad for the environment and animals but is still used as an energy source in Germany. In 2021, almost 9 percent of all energy in Germany was generated with lignite.

Coal mining -the extraction of coal from the earth- also directly threatens birds and other animals living in the area where coal is mined. As mining operations clear large areas of land, they displace and fragment habitats, making it difficult for animals to find food, shelter, and breeding areas.

A few years ago, RWE already wanted to use the land under Lützerath to extract brown coal. The village had to be demolished for this, but climate activists prevented that by occupying it for more than two years. Last week, the police evacuated the village.

Since then, climate activists have held protests near Lützerath and other places in Germany. In Düsseldorf, the environmental group Extinction Rebellion demonstrated on Tuesday at the Ministry of the Interior.

In Cologne, climate activists stopped traffic while holding banners reading “the last generation” and yellow crosses, a symbol of protest against the destruction of Lützerath.

Climate activists have argued that Germany should not be mining brown coal anymore and should focus on expanding renewable energy instead.


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