Police Pepper Spray, Arrest Protesters Marching on UN Climate Summit as Hundreds Inside Stage Walkout
In Copenhagen, thousands of protesters marched toward the UN climate summit on Wednesday with the stated goal of transforming the talks into a People’s Assembly and to call for climate justice. Police made over 200 arrests. Meanwhile, inside the Bella Center, hundreds of people staged a walkout to try and meet the marchers outside but were met with a heavy police response.
AMY GOODMAN: As thousands of protesters outside arrived at the gates of the UN climate summit, inside the Bella Center hundreds of people gathered in the main hallway, and they staged a walkout. The chant began with Josh Kahn Russell making the announcement.
JOSHUA KAHN RUSSELL: Climate!
PROTESTERS: Justice! Reclaim power! Reclaim power! Reclaim power! Join the People’s Assembly! Join the People’s Assembly! Join the People’s Assembly! Take back the talks! Take back the talks! Climate justice now! Bolivia! Bolivia!
TOM GOLDTOOTH: We’re here to support our brother. We’re here to support our brother Evo Morales, who is coming today. He has given us direction, that these negotiators need to make a commitment. We need to save Mother Earth by having strong binding agreements. They are demanding 49 percent reduction targets—49 percent reduction targets by 2020, not a sellout position like United States, who’s coming here saying they’re entertaining four percent reduction levels. That’s an outrage. They are here to demand that the Annex I countries pay up, pay up their ecological debt. So this is a support of Bolivia.
PROTESTERS: Join the People’s Assembly! Join the People’s Assembly! Join the People’s Assembly! Join the People’s Assembly! Take back the talks! Take back the talks!
JOSHUA KAHN RUSSELL: So what’s going right now is that we’ve had a group of people from civil society inside the talks who have come outside the talks to have a People’s Assembly to put a new agenda for the talks, to reset the dirty, false solutions that are being discussed in there, to put real solutions for communities.
PROTESTERS: We are peaceful! What are you?
AMY GOODMAN: Police beat back the protesters.
We’re joined now by Joshua Kahn Russell, who helped organize today’s walkout from the Bella Center. As you know, all of our guests have been live here in the Bella Center or on tape, but now, because Joshua Kahn Russell cannot come back into the Bella Center, an organizer with Rainforest Action Network, we are reaching him via Skype, the Democracy Now! video stream.
Josh, what happened once you got outside?
JOSHUA KAHN RUSSELL: Once we got out—once we got outside, it was this beautiful North-South alliance of people who, from the inside, felt silenced, just as delegates inside all weekend felt silenced, and came outside together to join this People’s Assembly of this coming together of social movements. It was a beautiful coming together to put the real solutions on the table that aren’t being discussed right now.
So what happened was we marched towards the People’s Assembly and were actually guaranteed by the police that we could join them. But by the time we got about twenty feet away, we could see each other. It was this beautiful moment of cheering and celebration, that we were there talking about the solutions that we need for communities. But then the police stopped us and said that we couldn’t move further. And so, what happened was folks who were a little more vulnerable stood to the side, and the rest of us chose to push further.
AMY GOODMAN: What happened to you, Josh, outside?
JOSHUA KAHN RUSSELL: I got cracked in the head a little bit with a police club. And, you know, sometimes—
AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean?
JOSHUA KAHN RUSSELL: —the media likes to focus on violence in protest, but I think what’s useful about this to know is that it’s a reflection of the silencing of civil society’s voice that’s happening, that the Danish government is so intense on cracking down and silencing critics of the talks that they’re even resorting to pushing violence on very explicitly nonviolent protesters.
AMY GOODMAN: We’ve gotten word all through today—I was speaking with a Belgian reporter from De Morgen newspaper in Brussels, and she was following one of the Belgian activists. He called her. He was staying at a friend’s house here in Copenhagen. The police moved into the house this morning, looking for someone. What kind of reports are you getting like that around the city?
JOSHUA KAHN RUSSELL: You know, we’ve had activists for the last week that are being singled out and taken. A lot of our brothers and sisters whom we’ve been working very closely with are being taken with no pretext and no reason. And they’re just—they’re being taken for being activists, for trying to raise the voice of climate justice, the voice of what communities really need.
You know, what we’re talking about are solutions that are commonsense solutions for everyone around the world. We’re talking about leaving the fossil fuels in the ground. We’re talking about those of us who are from the North, who have over-consumed our resources and taken too much of the sky, to be giving back, so that all people can survive and live in healthy communities. And for people who are speaking out about that, they’re being taken preemptively, so that they cannot raise their voices. So this moment really reveals that silencing.
AMY GOODMAN: Tadzio Mueller—explain who he is and what happened with him.
JOSHUA KAHN RUSSELL: So, Tadzio is a good friend. He’s an organizer who helped sort of catalyze this action. And yesterday in the Bella Center, a few of us were getting together to talk some of the logistics of it, and on his way out, he got taken by security. He was just identified and taken away. And he’s gone. And we haven’t heard from him since. We know that today he has been—he was put before a court. And hopefully we’ll get linked up with him soon. But, you know, it was a very obvious move to try to take out the leadership of some of the work that we’re doing. But we know that these movements are strong and that we’re interconnected and that we’re taking our leadership from communities that are struggling, communities that are struggling for their rights. So, you know, these protests are going on regardless of what the Danish authorities do.
AMY GOODMAN: Joshua Kahn Russell, I want to thank you for being with us, as we break the sound barrier. You may not have been able to get back into the Bella Center today, but via the Democracy Now! video stream, we are able to hear what happened outside. Joshua Kahn Russell is an organizer with the Rainforest Action Network. We’re going to go to break. When we come back, we’ll hear from the streets. Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: It’s Climate Countdown, Climate Crackdown. This is Democracy Now!, broadcasting from inside the Bella Center. I’m Amy Goodman.
Just outside these climate talks at the Bella Center, thousands of protesters marched towards the UN climate summit with the stated goal of transforming the talks into a People’s Assembly. Calling the action “Reclaim Power,” the march was organized by Climate Justice Action, a coalition of global climate justice groups.
Democracy Now!’s John Hamilton was on the streets to cover the story. He filed this report.
PROTESTERS: What do we want? System change! When do we want it? Yesterday! What do we want? System change! When do we want it? Yesterday!
HELEN DAVISON: I’m Helen Davison, and I’m also from Cambria in northwest England. The reason that I’m here is that I just feel that climate change is the most important issue that’s facing the world today, and I want to be here, I suppose, to have my voice heard by those people in the Bella Center who are the people who are making decisions about the future of our planet, really, and the future of humanity, that they make the right and strongest decisions about climate change that actually mean that we’re going to tackle it and prevent the increasing rise in temperature, which, as things stand, is likely to happen if they don’t make a decent, strong deal.
JAHI CHAPPELL: My name is Jahi Chappell. I am a post-doctoral researcher at Cornell University in science and technology studies. My specialty is in agro-ecology and sustainable agriculture. What’s going on is people are organizing to march on the Bella Center and demand that the people are heard in these negotiations. It doesn’t seem to have been going in the right direction, as far as allowing a voice from the majority of people in the world, including the group I’m with, Via Campesina, the international peasant farmers’ movement.
ALICIA GARZA: So, my name is Alicia Garza, and I’m out here from San Francisco, California, with People Organized to Win Employment Rights, the Movement Generation network. And we’re out here to try to kind of raise up democracy, right? We know that a thousand people are going to be let in today. And we see all of these hundreds of people who want to be inside, who want to have a say, who want a seat at the table, to be able to say, “Look, we need a better plan. We need to have drastic reductions. We need to raise up resilience in the Global South. And if we don’t do that, if you all are not going to do that for us, then we’re going to do it instead.”
PROTESTERS: We are reclaiming power! With no personal harm!
PROTESTER: So we’re getting ready, I think, to push past through the police, pass through the gates, enter the Bella Center. We’re supposed to—we’re going to go to the left of the truck, pushing together, stand together. We are all the people in the front, they said, need to take care of each other and push past and stay safe.
PROTESTER: The police pepper-sprayed me. I was shouting, “We are peaceful!” And they pepper-sprayed me, beat me on the back with a stick.
PROTESTERS: We are peaceful! What are you? We are peaceful! What are you? We are peaceful! What are you?
AMY GOODMAN: And the Danish police pepper-sprayed and beat a number of the protesters. Hundreds of them have been arrested.
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