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The backstory: Swedish teen climate change activist Greta Thunberg has made headlines for challenging world leaders on their approaches to the climate crisis. But she's also been the topic of many viral conspiracy theories and false claims. For example, one conspiracy said she was a time traveler sent from the past to prevent global warming because of an 1898 photograph that looked remarkably like her.
More recently: Earlier this week, Thunberg was briefly held by police during a protest in western Germany to prevent the destruction of Lützerath, an abandoned village set to be cleared for a coal mine expansion. After her detainment, she tweeted, "Climate protection is not a crime." Law enforcement clarified that she had not been arrested and was released shortly after her identification was verified. Thunberg also said she had been briefly detained and then released with other activists.
The development: A viral video has circulated that shows a smiling Thunberg being escorted by police while photographers snap pictures, leading some to say it was a staged photo opportunity, calling the officers "extras for Greta Thunberg." But, the North Rhine-Westphalia Interior Ministry said this isn't true and that police were waiting for logistical reasons. They said that "they had to wait for a couple of minutes before they could bring her to a certain police car." A journalist there at the time has also said, "My impression was that there was confusion. Greta was not the first protester who had been taken away from the sit-in."
"Yesterday I was part of a group that peacefully protested the expansion of a coal mine in Germany. We were kettled by police and then detained but were let go later that evening," said Greta Thunberg on Twitter.
"The fake "arrest" of Greta Thunberg in Germany today. It's all a theater," said Dr. Eli David, co-founder of Deep Instinct and DeepCube, on Twitter after posting a video of the police escorting Thunberg from the protest site.
"What I am most bothered about is when people lie about me and spread, like, conspiracy theories – because I can't lie, so when other people lie about me, it's like, 'No - don't.'" said Greta Thunberg in an interview with the BBC.
"We would never give ourselves to make such recordings," said a spokesperson for the local German police to the BBC, denying allegations that Thunberg's detainment was staged. "They had to wait for a couple of minutes before they could bring her to a certain police car."
"My impression was that there was confusion. Greta was not the first protester who had been taken away from the sit-in," said Christian Wernicke, a journalist from German news outlet Süddeutsche Zeitung, who was there at the time. "I've seen different reactions to the video. Some say that the footage looks like the police are setting her up to embarrass her and others say that it is all part of some propaganda."