Was Greta Thunberg’s ‘arrest’ staged at anti-mining protest?

That’s what Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg did headlines while protesting in Germany on January 17, 2023 against the controversial expansion of a coal mine in the region. German police officers could be seen in photos and video wearing her and standing beside her while they appeared to arrest her.

Many online backgrounds showed Thunberg standing and laughing between two police officers in one of the videos, claiming it was proof she “staged her arrest.” Some of our readers also asked us to check whether Thunberg’s “arrest” was staged for the media.

This was announced by the German police Reuters that Thunberg was briefly arrested – not arrested – and released after an identity check. In the video above, Thunberg is cooperative and even friendly to the police.

Thunberg was protest around an open-pit coal mine as police warned them and the other protesters to move away from its edge. She was carried away by three police officers and held by one arm some distance from the edge of the mine and finally escorted back to police vans. She was released later that evening.

An abandoned village near the mine has been built deleted for the expansion of the mine. The mine owner had agreed with the government to demolish the village in exchange for phasing out coal-fired power generation by 2030, and the village is expected to be the last to be engulfed by this mine. but climate activists say this will lead to more greenhouse gas emissions, and Germany should focus on developing more renewable energy sources.

After the arrest, Thunberg tweeted that they had all been “locked up” and “caged” by police. Kettle refers to a method of police crowd control by confining a group of people to a smaller area.

That is what the police said Reuters: “Greta Thunberg was part of a group of activists who rushed towards the ledge [of the mine]. She was then stopped by us and carried with this group out of the immediate danger area for identification.” They added that an activist jumped into the mine.

A series from photographs of the incident at the crime scene indicate that police actually removed Thunberg and detained her for a short time before transporting her from the scene in police vans.

We should note that activists often plan such sit-ins and protests as media events to get their cause known, in the full knowledge that the police and media will be present – meaning they are in a sense “staged” even though they are in the first place Arrests or detentions are no less real than they were expected. It is natural to expect photos and videos to emerge from such a protest, and that is an integral part of Thunberg’s activism. In this case, the situation probably developed organically, albeit predictably.


“January 17, 2023, North Rhine-Westphalia, Erkelenz: Police officers…” Getty Images, accessed January 18, 2023.

“Greta Thunberg released after brief detention at protest against German mine, police say.” Reuters, January 17, 2023. www.reuters.com, January 18, 2023.

“Kettling.” Cambridge dictionary. Retrieved January 18, 2023.

“Lützerath: German police expel climate activists after clashes near coal mine.” BBC News, January 15, 2023. www.bbc.com, January 18, 2023.

“Police arrest climate activist Greta Thunberg in a…” Getty Images, accessed January 18, 2023.

Sullivan, Becky. “Greta Thunberg was arrested by German police while protesting the expansion of a coal mine.” NPR, January 17, 2023. NPR, January 18, 2023.

https://www.snopes.com/news/2023/01/18/greta-thunberg-arrest-germany-staged/ Was Greta Thunberg’s ‘arrest’ staged at anti-mining protest?

Brian Ashcraft

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