Tuesday, December 15, 2009
When push comes to shove in Copenhagen
by Katie Day, Sana Mazloum, Isabelle Tolhurst and Matt Whitby
HUNDREDS of protestors in Copenhagen at the weekend were arrested and detained by Danish police guarding roads leading to the United Nations climate change conference.
Masked youths clashed with riot police to voice their concerns over the lack of action so far at COP15.
Protestors not caught behind the police lines spent hours calling on police to release their comrades, chanting “let them go” to the beat of drums.
Copenhagen resident Anders Solem said the demonstration was “tame” compared to past protests: “Most of the troubles on the street were started by young people who are not really environmental activists but just angry kids who want to fight the police.”
Police refused to reveal the reason behind restricting the movement of what was largely a peaceful demonstration.
On Saturday, tens of thousands of people gathered in the palace square at Christiansborg, calling for action to fight global warming by world leaders due to arrive this week.
The march ended at the COP15 venue at Bella Center, just outside the city, where activists held a candle-lit vigil late into the night.
Anti-capitalist group Not Your Business had tried to infiltrate several corporations at an organised demonstration starting at Nytorv and ending in a blockade on the city bridge.
Activists plan to try again after nearly 70 were arrested. Chanting “our climate, not your business”, they were stopped by police blockades.
Protestors threw cobblestones at the windows of the historic stock exchange and Foreign Ministry buildings.
Flares were set off as crowds ignored police calls to disperse.
Traffic also came to a standstill.
Police said bolt-cutters and gas masks were found during a search of a truck that led the demonstration. Only 13 of the 968 people detained during the mass rally remained in custody Sunday.
Reports say of those, three - including two Danes and a Frenchman - faced preliminary charges of fighting with police.
An estimated 40,000 people joined the mostly peaceful march toward the two-week conference which opened on December 7.
Observers criticised Danish laws that allowed police to make preventative arrests if they suspected a demonstration will turn violent and hold suspected troublemakers for up to 12 hours without a court arraignment.
The COP15 conference was suspended Sunday so police could sweep the area ahead of the arrival of world leaders, including American president Barack Obama and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.
In Australia, climate change protesters scaled the Sydney Opera House and unfurled a banner saying, "Stop the politics, climate treaty now".
The protest is seen as an embarrassment for police after security was upgraded at the Opera House and Harbour Bridge because of the growing risk of a terrorist attack.