The extension of a lignite mine in Germany has provoked the mobilization of many environmental activists who have come to occupy the site to mark their disapproval of the project. Greta Thunberg, the Swedish muse of the fight against global warming, also came to the site, before being apprehended by the German police in a way that is raising doubts about the preferential treatment she received.
The half-abandoned village of Lützerath, in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, is to be demolished to make room for the expansion of an open-pit lignite mine, destined to become the largest in the country. Environmental activists, organized in collectives, have been occupying the site in protest. Greta Thunberg joined the action of the ‘Lützerath Lebt’ collective on Saturday, January 14th. At stake is the massive return of coal in Germany’s energy policy, to compensate for the loss of Russian gas due to the war in Ukraine.
On Tuesday, January 17th, police arrived to dislodge the demonstrators, among them Greta Thunberg. Pictures and videos have circulated of her being detained, leading some to believe that her detention was cleverly orchestrated to reinforce her image as a devoted activist for the climate cause. One photo, in particular, shows her smiling between the police officers in charge of seizing her.
On Twitter, the subject went viral with the hashtag #staging, and the video of the event accumulated 6.5 million views in a few hours. A journalist from the German daily newspaper Bild was at the scene and reported on what he saw:
Once Greta was detached from the group by the police, two policemen took her to a police van. But the van was already full of other climate activists who had to give their details. Greta was brought back, and that’s when this image appeared, where we lingered for a few minutes, with another activist to her left.
This provided an opportunity for several photos to be taken by news agency photographers and sold to the media.
It was only a moment of hesitation and nothing more, according to a freelance photographer also present at the scene, Hesham Elsherif. No one from the press asked the police to wait to take pictures of her. There were also other protesters waiting and being held back by police.
“Greta was one of those and she was treated the same way like the others. Just wanted to make things clear!” Elsherif said on Instagram.
The Aachen police also denied any staging, but also any arrest: Greta Thunberg was only subjected to an identity check before being transported by bus out of the protest zone.
The young Swede did not wish to comment on the accusations made against her on social networks: “Climate protection is not a crime,” she simply declared.
The speed at which the controversy has flared up proves that her personality and her media overexposure do not fail to annoy.