Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish climate activist, apologized Saturday after telling a crowd of young supporters a day earlier -- while speaking in English -- that politicians should be put “against the wall.”

Critics alleged that the remark, delivered in Turin, Italy, meant she was advocating for violence against world leaders who dodge their responsibilities to fight climate change.

“We have to make sure that they cannot do that,” Thunberg told the crowd. “We will make sure they, that we put them against the wall, and that they will have to do their job and to protect our futures.”

"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."

— Greta Thunberg


Thunberg later explained she was making a literal translation from Swedish. She said the phrase in her native language means to hold people accountable, and clarified that her worldwide school strike movement ought to remain a peaceful protest on climate change.

“Yesterday I said we must hold our leaders accountable and unfortunately said 'put them against the wall'. That’s Swenglish: “att ställa någon mot väggen” (to put someone against the wall) means to hold someone accountable,” she tweeted.

“That’s what happens when you improvise speeches in a second language. But of course I apologise if anyone misunderstood this,” she continued. “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.”

Thunberg traveled to Turin in an electric car after attending the COP25 climate conference in Madrid, where she had given a speech accusing world governments of "creative PR" over their climate change stances. She told reporters in Italy that she would be taking a break after the holidays following months of global climate activism in the United States and Europe.

“I will be home for Christmas and then I will take a holiday break because you need to take a rest,” she said, according to Reuters. “Otherwise you cannot do this all the time.”

“I will be home for Christmas and then I will take a holiday break because you need to take a rest. Otherwise you cannot do this all the time.”

— Greta Thunberg

Thunberg, who opts out of air travel, took an emissions-free boat journey across the Atlantic to New York City in August to speak before the United Nations. She then spent months campaigning and attending climate rallies across the U.S. before returning to Europe via catamaran to attend the Madrid conference.

On Thursday, Thunberg became the youngest person to be named Time magazine's "Person of the Year" – an accolade that prompted swift criticism from President Trump on Twitter.

"So ridiculous," Trump tweeted. "Greta must work on her Anger Management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend! Chill Greta, Chill!"

The teen -- who will turn 17 on Jan. 3 -- later hit back, changing her Twitter bio to read: “A teenager working on her anger management problem. Currently chilling and watching a good old fashioned movie with a friend."

Also while speaking at the Fridays for Future demonstration in Italy, she said: “Adults are behaving as if there’s no tomorrow. But there’s a tomorrow. We have to fight for that tomorrow as if our lives depend on that, because they do.”

“2019 is almost over. We must make sure that 2020 is the year of action, is the year when we bend the global emissions curve,” she told the crowd, according to The Hill.

Trump, who was named Time magazine's Person of the Year in 2016, and Thunberg have traded barbs in the past.

Last month, Thunberg told “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” she wouldn’t consider meeting the U.S. president because, “I don’t see what I could tell him that he hasn’t already heard, and I just think it would be a waste of time.”


In September, while they both were in New York City for events at the United Nations, Trump mocked Thunberg’s remarks at the Climate Action Summit. Thunberg, in her now-viral speech, said to world leaders: “How dare you” steal “my dreams and my childhood with your empty words” while “people are dying” and the world is in the “beginning of a mass extinction.”

"She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future," Trump tweeted in response. "'So nice to see!"

The Associated Press contributed to this report.