Repercussions of disregarding the law

Riley Carroll, Arts & Life Editor

Twenty-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg was detained in Germany during a peaceful sit-in protest against village demolition for coal mine expansion on Jan. 17, 2023. “This is the second time Thunberg has been detained at the site,” police spokesperson Christof Hüls told CNN Tuesday. “She was part of a large group of protesters that broke through a police barrier and encroached on a coal pit, which authorities have not been able to secure entirely,” Hüls said. As reported by Reuters, “police warned that the group would be removed by force if they did not move away from the edge of the mine” and law enforcement followed through as promised.

Along with the other protesters and activists, Thunberg did not comply with law enforcement requests and was consequently apprehended. 

“Yesterday I was part of a group that peacefully protested the expansion of a coal mine in Germany,” Thunberg tweeted. “We were kettled by police and then detained but were let go later that evening. Climate protection is not a crime.”

Although Thunberg is correct about climate protection not being a crime, the German police that detained the protesters had every right to do so. According to Article 8 of the Basic Law, titled Freedom of Assembly, “All Germans shall have the right to assemble peacefully and unarmed without prior notification or permission.” It adds that “in the case of outdoor assemblies, this right may be restricted by or pursuant to law.” Law enforcement let the protestors know that they needed to relocate in advance, giving the activists plenty of warning. Still, they chose to hold their ground and experienced the rightful consequences of doing so. 

Thunberg and the activists’ efforts to halt the expansion of coal mines are extremely admirable; however, their reasonable detainment should not come as a surprise.