Despite Police Violence Civil Society Groups Inside and Outside Unite in “People’s Assembly” to Demand Real Solutions to the Climate Crisis
Protests Expose Deep Flaws in the COP Process and Denounce Efforts to Silence Critics by Excluding Civil Society
Copenhagen, Denmark—As the COP 15 climate talks enter their final days and world leaders converge on Copenhagen, thousands demonstrated in the streets of Copenhagen as part of the “Reclaim Power” protest for climate justice called by Climate Justice Action. About 300 COP 15 delegates who are part of the Climate Justice Now! Network marched out of the Bella Center and attempted to join the protests outside, led by members of the Bolivian delegation and the Indigenous Peoples Caucus. These delegates were met with police truncheons; some were badly bruised. Hundreds more UNFCCC accredited Civil Society observers were denied access to the Bella Center all together, including the entire Friends of the Earth International delegation, who staged a sit-in in the lobby at the Bella Center– and the Indigenous Peoples Caucus, which is scheduled to meet with Bolivian President Evo Morales and is being denied entry at the time of writing.
“In the wake of the mass exclusions of critical civil society voices from the COP 15 process, and with the future of our planet literally hanging in the balance, we joined the mass nonviolent movement in Copenhagen to protest the unjust agenda of the rich countries who are trying to strong arm the rest of the world into accepting their agenda of allowing global warming by 2 degrees — which will literally wipe entire nations off the map,” said Anne Peterman of Global Justice Ecology Project and Climate Justice Now! who joined the march out of the Bella Center today.
“I participated in this protest because climate change is already killing people in Africa. This is an emergency and we need climate justice now! We must acknowledge that we from the south are the real creditors and the governments of the North are the real debtors. They owe the world economic debt, ecological debt and climate debt and they must pay now!” said Wahu Kaara of the Kenya Debt Relief Network.
As broad frustration grows with the content and direction of the climate negotiations, two international networks of people’s movements, civil society groups, Indigenous Peoples Organizations and grassroots activists united to stage mass non-violent civil disobedience to expose the failure of the COP process. Representatives of these networks, Climate Justice Action and Climate Justice Now!, declared that, given the urgency of the climate crisis, it is time for dramatic action to expose the COP process as undemocratic, unjust and inadequate to deal with the scale of the problem. The “Reclaim Power” action on Wednesday December 16th involved thousands of activists simultaneously approaching the Conference centre from different starting points, and a mass of people walking out of the climate talks, to hold a ‘People’s Assembly’ a participatory platform for marginalized voices and real solutions to climate change. Despite significant violence from the police against non-violent protesters the groups did manage to meet and hold the assembly before marching triumphantly back to the city center to continue the work of building a broad based global climate justice movement.
“The solidarity we experienced today, in the face of police intimidation and repression, shows that people across the world are standing together to expose the failure of the COP to address the real causes of the climate crisis, and our determination to work together to bring about the changes needed to tackle climate change. The people feel strong together and we will go back home to build the movement for climate justice and for real solutions, ” said Kingkorn Narintarakul of the Thai Working Group for Climate Justice who, together with a delegation of Thai community activists, marched in today’s protest.
Unfortunately after today’s actions and the people assembly the Bella centre continues to be closed to all Non-Governmental Organizations and members of civil society. Among those locked out were leaders from the Indigenous Peoples caucus, young children and observers from across the globe aiming to support their governments. As Tom Goldtooth, director of the Indigenous Environmental Network who was also among those locked out of the building said “this is in direct contravention of our Human Rights under the United Nations Charter
“We have no more time to waste. If governments won’t solve the problem then its time for our diverse people’s movements to unite and reclaim the power to shape our future. We are beginning this process with the people’s assembly. We will join together all the voices that have been excluded—both within the process and outside of it. said Stine Gry, Climate Justice Action.
The Reclaim Power action brought together climate activists, representatives of climate-impacted communities and Indigenous peoples from around the world for a peoples assembly that took place outside the Bella Center. The range of actions included not only participants in the COP process walking out of the talks but also thousands of people who have been excluded from the talks making their way into the grounds of the Bella Center to call for Climate Justice.