There’s a ton of interesting stuff going on inside the negotiations at the UN Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen but there is also a ton taking place on the streets. Those of us working here are a lil worried that the stories you may be seeing on TV aren’t an accurate portrayal of what’s actually taking place over here.
Yeah, the police cracked down on protestors with unwarranted brute force… and I was caught in the middle of it… but there are other stories too. For instance the 100,000 protestors on braved the streets for a peaceful candellight vigil despite freezing temperatures and an over-eager, riot-ready, police force. Follow allong my realtime updates from Copenhagen at @kkon Twitter and check out all my photos in the COP15 UN Climate Change Summit photoset over on Flickr. Here’s an photographic recap of what I’ve seen on the streets of Copenhagen.
The day of demonstrations started at 10am for a march called ‘The Flood’. We walked from a square across town to the Danish Parliment building. The crowd was older, happy, and well organized. The demonstration started and finished with speeches and music. I was just wakin up and taking it all in. I walked the march with Anport Jacob, World-Changer Heather, and Nympho Maggie… we had great conversations about the city and conference. The demonstration was probably made of up about 15,000 peeps and was a great ‘intro’ to the streets of Copenhagen.
Happy peeps from a variety of nations marched in the demonstration showing solidarity amongst citizens in seeing concrete action taken by world leaders here at the UN Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen.
Even the Tibetan Yaks joined in on the demonstration. They’re sick of all the YAK YAK YAK taking place at the highest levels on the issue of global warming and climate change and everyone wants to see the 15th meeting of the UN on the topic of climate change yield some tangible and binding results.
Joining the Tibetan Yaks at the protest were these uber c00t polar bears. There were also some awesome peeps dressed up as trolls with signs that read ‘When you cut down all the forrests, where will the trolls live?’. The demonstraters were super creative and in good spirits. There was a sense of commroderie between all the participants and a feeling of doing positive action on behalf of the whole planet.
Choppers like this news one followed the snaking line of protesters through the old cobble streets of Copenhagen and many riot police in armored vans were visible but there were no stoppages or even any confrontations. The group was happy and celebratory if not a lil bit cold!
As the march wound through the city streets the volume got turned up. Singing, chanting, and pleading started to drown out the quiet conversations of earlier in the morning.
Near 1pm we met up with the larger demonstration which had the theme ‘System Change Not Climate Change’. People really started arriving en mass… literally spilling onto the streets and into parliment square from every direction. In the end the news reported that more than 100,000 people marched in the rally.
Things took a turn for the chaotic when riot police decided that a group of young and vocal activists threatened the security of the event and preemptively cut off the protesters from the rest of the march with a display of overwhelming force including dogs, riot gear and armored personal carriers.
Twas very apparent that the young climate change activists that were arrested in the protest were not a threat to the security of the march. The police had 6500 officers on hand… you dont mobilize a force like that and not use it… even if there isnt any reason too. Its sad that things went down the way they did.
The dogs and gear they used were gnarly and vastly disproportional to what was required in a situation like this. The police explained they were taking a preemptive better safe than sorry approach but most people here agreed that those reasons didnt justify the arrest and harrassment of so many innocent people during what had been an otherwise peaceful and constructive march.
The news coverage of the event labeled all the arrested as ‘anarchists’ and ‘black bloc’ and claimed they had come from all over Europe to interrupt the UN negotations.
Clearly that wasnt true as the people arrested in this picture arent anarchists or black bloc but just a bunch of young Danish teens who were demonstrating.
Does this look like black bloc anarchist bent on the destruction of civil society to you? No not to me either. The police cheif aplogized to these people but they were still dealt with harshly.
Amidst all the confusion of dogs, sirens, shouting cops and crying protesters it wasnt really clear to anyone why people were being detained and arrested or what would happen to them.
When it was all said and done 948 climate change activists and protesters were arrested without any cause or explanation. They were made to sit in human chains on the ground for 4+ hours in below freezing temperatures. Many of them peed on themeselves and their neighbors after being denied access to bathrooms.
This is the police spokesperson. I asked him why the protesters were arrested. He told me the reason was that they found a bomb in one of the protesters backpacks. I said ‘a bomb?’ and he said ‘large fireworks’. Either way, I think they were looking for an excuse to lock down the young angry protesters and overstated the nature of any threat.
I will give the Danish police a thumbs up on one thing… they do value freedom of the press. I was caught in the crackdown on the block of protesters and being detained and processed for arrest. I notice several journalists running around on the ‘free’ side of the police line and when I showed the riot officer my media accredidation he pulled me out of the group of detainees and allowed me inside the police line to take all these photos. I havent taken off this badge since that day! :p
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