Friday, December 11, 2009
Police prepare to defend climate change conference
by Ben O’Halloran
UP to 6000 police have converged on Copenhagen to crack down on violent activists threatening to gatecrash the UN conference on climate change.
The protests are expected to attract more than 60,000 people to the Bella Center venue to coincide with the arrival of world leaders at the weekend.
The Danish Government passed new laws in the lead-up to the two-week conference for police to arrest and detain people suspected of trying to enter the conference.
On Wednesday, police seized a cache of 200 makeshift shields, paint bombs and other equipment, including nine platforms with crude staircases, after a police raid on a building that city officials had provided as free housing for activists visiting the Danish capital during the international climate talks.
Police say the demonstrators, who will march the 7km from the Danish Parliament to the Bella Center, intended to use the stairs to climb the barricades erected outside the heavily secured centre.
Under the $122 million crackdown dubbed by activists as the “turmoil and riot” law, police can hold people for up to 40 days if they believe they will be a public threat.
Makeshift holding cells have been established in an abandoned warehouse in the city to cope with the anticipated number of arrests.
Copenhagen police coordinator Per Larsen said the heavy police presence was needed to keep the peace during the conference.
He believes the holding pens are not over the top, but a deterrent against activists who wanted to disrupt the peaceful meetings.
Climate Justice Action, a global group committed to fighting climate change, has said despite the heavy police presence, demonstrators will break into the conference and take over proceedings under the guise of a ‘peoples assembly’.
It believes the UN climate talks will not solve the climate crisis: “We are no closer to reducing greenhouse gas emissions than we were when international negotiations began 15 years ago.
“Emissions are rising faster than ever, while carbon trading allows climate criminals to pollute and profit. The talks are essentially legitimising a new colonialism that carves up of the world’s remaining resources.”
“In response to this madness, a global movement for climate justice has emerged to reclaim power over our future.”
Danish police issued a statement in the lead-up to the COP15 conference which states:
* in Denmark, people have freedom of speech and the freedom to assemble
* participants must be unarmed and demonstrations must not be violent
• demonstrations, processions, and public meetings must be reported to the police no later than 24 hours prior to their start
• unless attacked, the police can only intervene in demonstrations if the crowd has been ordered to disperse three times in the name of the Queen and the law
• it is prohibited to wear a hood or mask or paint your face when participating in public gatherings or demonstrations, in order not to be identified
• if violence or threats are aimed at policemen or other persons in public service, special and more stringent regulations apply
• it is prohibited to be in possession of knives and other weapons in public places. Violation of this rule can result in detention, imprisonment and expulsion
• police can carry out body searches of all citizens in certain areas in order to find weapons.