Greta Thunberg apologized over the weekend for saying that world leaders should be put “against the wall” after some interpreted it as inciting violence ― and also cleared up drama after she was called out by a German rail line.
The Swedish teen activist made the remark while delivering a speech in English at a “Fridays for Future” demonstration in Turin, Italy.
“World leaders are still trying to run away from their responsibilities but we have to make sure they cannot do that,” Thunberg told a crowd of youth climate activists on Friday. “We will make sure ... that we put them against the wall, and that they will have to do their job and to protect our futures.”
The comments sparked backlash from critics on Twitter who said they associated the “against the wall” phrase with execution by firing squad. It is defined by Merriam-Webster as being “put in a very bad position or situation.”
Thunberg responded with an apology, explaining that the phrase has a different meaning in her native language, in which it means to “hold someone accountable.”
“That’s what happens when you improvise speeches in a second language,” she tweeted. “But of course I apologize if anyone misunderstood this. I can not enough express the fact that I ― as well as the entire school strike movement ― are against any possible form of violence.”
“It goes without saying but I say it anyway,” she concluded.
The climate activist was speaking in Turin following the United Nations climate summit COP25 in Madrid. She expressed concerns the summit would not lead to action from politicians, saying activists should continue to apply pressure to leaders.
On her journey back to Sweden on Saturday, Thunberg dealt with another minor controversy after she tweeted an image of herself sitting on the ground of an “overcrowded train” through Germany. “Finally on my way home!” she wrote.
She does not travel by plane due to the harmful emissions produced by air travel and instead journeys around the world via rail and boat.
German rail authorities bizarrely seemed to take offense, interpreting the tweet as criticism of their service. Deutsche Bahn issued a statement and tweets to clarify that Thunberg was seated on the train.
“Love #Greta, thank you for supporting us railroad workers in the fight against climate change! We were pleased that you were on the ICE 74 with us on Saturday. And with 100 percent green electricity,” the rail network tweeted in German.
“It would have been even nicer if you had also reported how friendly and competent you were looked after by our team at your seat in first class,” they added, prompting some Twitter users to call out the teen for her “fib” and others to blame the rail line for consistently overbooking their services.
Thunberg later responded by explaining that she had had to sit on the floor after departing Switzerland, but that she was seated after Göttingen, Germany ― though she seemed unbothered by the overcrowding.
“This is no problem of course and I never said it was. Overcrowded trains is a great sign because it means the demand for train travel is high!”