12 December Initiative – huge success or background for branding?

Content

Success or failure? see below.

Uncertain preparatory process

The global climate day of action 2009

The main demonstration

Three left wing parties supporting the police perspective

December 12 in the media

Movement analysis

A demonstration split twice

You find extensive more material on the lack of left wing collective response to the repression December 12 – 18 and analysis at: The ALBA mass meeting: Full of lost left wing possibilities.

Photo Greenpeace Finland: http://www.flickr.com/photos/greenpeacefinland/ / CC BY 2.0

Success or failure?

A great success with 100 000 demonstrators in the biggest and most varied mass rally ever for the environment and the climate? Or a demonstration were system critical popular movements may be allowed to play a subordinate role as providers of cannon fodder for police attacks and raising the number of participants for carrying forward a message supporting the system?

Very few questions the image of success. The number of participants exceeds any other demonstration on climate change as well as any other demonstration at environmental summits. There has been occasions with higher number of demonstrators on environmental issues as when 200 000 demonstrated hand in hand along the sea shore to protect the Baltic sea in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in the late 1980s or 500 000 or a million demonstrated at the EU Summit in Barcelona 2002 were the question of water regulation and privatization was a main protest issue. There was also in total 200 000 demonstrating on climate change in different parts of Australia in 2007 but not in one place. From London there are reports of 100 000 in a climate change demonstration December 5 in 2009 but other sources than the organisers claim far less. In Copenhagen there were early reports on December 12 from the police and elsewhere stating 25 000 or 40 000. But they changed, more people came into the demonstration during the way and the police finally also reported 100 000 demonstrators. It certainly were far more than anticipated with participants filling a whole broad main street for 2,2 km.

At earlier environmental summits the demonstration figures have been considerably lower, 7 000 at the radical demonstration at the UN Summit in Stockholm 1972, 10 000 at the NGO and left wing party demonstration at the UN Summit in Rio de Janeiro 1992 and 5 000 at the more radical demonstration with favelaorganizations and their allies. 30 000 at the radical demonstration at the UN Summit in Johannesburg 2002 and far less at COP summits before Copenhagen if there was a demonstration at all.

In terms of numbers the December 12 demonstration at COP15 therefore was a success. Among the organisers there had been very early in the process talked about 100 000. But later this was reduced by all to ambitions of 40 000 and hopefully 60 000. Taking the small size of Denmark and its capital with 1 ½ million inhabitants and the cold winter into account it was a great achievement.

The diversity of the demonstration has also been put forward as a great success by many. In total there were at least 41different blocks ranging from NGOs like Action Aid to Libertarian Socialists. The demonstration was supported by 538 organizations world-wide.

Jonathan Neale, long time global climate campaigner in times of little support from Britain cannot refrain himself from making an emotional report:

”The march was long, loud, cold, bouncy, and energetic, about half Danes and half foreigners. I moved up and down the line, and everywhere people were chanting. This time the slogans were about climate, not some other issue, and they sounded and felt organic, rising up from the movement.
Every type of person was there. I marched with the Belgian unions, who kneeled and banged their green hard hats on the road and then rose and ran shouting, again and again. With the Swedish communists and their red flags. With the British campaign and our greenhouse, chanting, ‘Leave the Oil in the Soil, Leave the Coal in the Hole.’ The Danish WWF chanted that with us, and then taught us ‘Wa, Wa, Wa, PANDA!’
People were happy. No one had expected 100,000. For the activists gathered from around the world, this was the largest climate demonstration they had ever seen, by far.
From then on we knew a new global movement was possible.”

Yet many activists find that the demonstration lacked in promoting a strengthening and unifying message.

Planet First, People First march at Bella Center. Photo from tcktcktck campaign

Dec12: Uncertain preparatory process

Planet first – people first demonstration posters in Copenhagen. Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/americagov/ / CC BY-SA 2.0

The preparatory process had been quite uncertain. The political signals coming from the meetings of the organisers shifted quite strongly. The first call was made by a number of environmental and climate organizations at the COP14 meeting in Poznan in Poland in December 2008.
A first preparatory meeting in Denmark took place March 10 in 2009. The Participants can be grouped in seven categories: Climate and environmental movement including activists from KlimaX, The Danish Climate Movement and Friends of the Earth Denmark, NGOs including the 92 group, a coalition of the biggest environmental and development NGOs in Denmark and Greenpeace, The Danish Church through its development aid organization, Marxist Leninist and popular front organizations including the Daily Arbejderen (The Worker), The Communist Party and Danish Cuban Association, Youth organizations including Pedagogic students and a Socialist Youth organization and one small trade union. Phil Thornhill from Global Climate Campaign also participated.

Inspiration for the organization model came from an earlier Stop Bush mobilization when some 25 000 people demonstrated at the visit of the US president in the middle of the summer some years ago. The idea was to build a broad coalition by arranging open meeting approximatly once a month and set up working groups and a coordination group for what had to be done between the meetings. Decisions was the hope should ”in all large extent taken by consensus rather than by vote.” Special concern was in a preparatory paper put on ”mutual respect for each other’s diversity: that ’activists’ understands that ’organizations’ is important in getting a sufficient width, although they only meet up with some representatives at a plenary meetings. And that organizations understand that the activists are important to get out and get things done, although they may not represent anything other than himself or much smaller organizations than, say, trade unions, the WWF, DN etc.”

Planet first – people first web banner

The first meeting called for a ”big, broad and popular” demonstration with central demands calling for ambitious acts now and solutions that are socially and globally just. A coordination group was set up with almost only climate organizations, the climate movement, KlimaX and a Climate network as well as the Socialist People’s Party Youth.

At next meeting in early May nothing much had happened. The coordination group was supplemented by DanChurch Aid. But in late May the platform for the demonstration could be decided restating the vague general call for the global climate day of action 2009:

“We demand that world leaders take the urgent and resolute action needed to prevent the catastrophic destabilization of the global climate, so that the entire world can move as rapidly as possible to a stronger emissions reductions treaty that will be effective in minimizing dangerous climate change while maintaining principles of social and global justice.
We demand that those industrialized countries that have emitted most greenhouse gases take responsibility for climate change mitigation by immediately reducing their own emissions while investing in a clean energy”

The aim of the demonstration was stated as: ”To carry out a peaceful demonstration with tens of thousands of participants representing a broad spectrum of people from Denmark and around the world. To call on world leaders to take urgent actions on climate change and show that climate issues have broad public interest.” Internationally the aim was ”to stage synchronized peaceful demonstrations around the world in as many places as possible” The kind of participants asked for was stated as follows: ”In order to make the demonstrations as strong as possible, our principal aim is to secure a diversity of participants, including people from NGOs, labour unions, and private individuals.”

In spite of that there were not many more organizations present there were now strong hopes for the important construction workers union and the economically resourceful WWF had together with the equally strong MS/ActionAid Denmark entered the scene. The coordination group was supplemented once more, this time with MS/ActionAid.

Politically the earlier message to put equal emphasis on social and global justice now changed. Gradually all notions concerning social changes were marginalized to part of a phrase on principles. Instead the demands for ”leaders” to ”take the urgent and resolute action” and North-South interstate relationships became the only central points in the political message.

The organization cooperating in the tcktcktck campaign as Oxfam had strong influence on the 12 December Initiative

With the entry of Oxfam in the early autumn this shift became even more accentuated. The result was a chocking pink flyer with a text in yellow and white stating ”Planet first! People first!” and then ”family-friendly climate-demonstration”. Furthermore the texts reads ”It is now something happens”, ”the future of the planet will be decided”, ”the watch is ticking” – all part of the big NGO tcktcktck campaign rhetoric for COP15. The leaflet claim that ”the leaders of the world have the power to change the course of history in Copenhagen. If we are many enough, that demands action they cannot ignore us.” It ends by saying join a peaceful and colourful Global Climate Action Day in Copenhagen. It is hard to make a leaflet less political or more devote in its approval in advance of whatever the politicians decide. On the back page was the official platform and the list of organisations supporting the initiative. The proposal from Oxfam had been happily received by all in the organizing committee.

Why was social justice forgotten?

As many of the central organizations involved had left wing people representing them it was rather confusing. Their whole concept of the December 12 initiative was to be broad. Thus they promoted a platform for many different messages rather than a joint manifestation. And a main message within the NGO and parliamentary focus to send signals to politicians and global justice concerns framed as and issue of North-South relationships between countries. This means that there was less common political commitment and quite contradictory messaging.

12 December Initiative and CJA debate in Malmö Sweden October 8

In Sweden a representative on the left wing of 12 December initiative claimed that the risk that the demonstration would be coopted by the establishment was minimal: The left seemed not to worry about the main political message from the demonstration. This was not only in their understandable concern for making a broad demonstration happen. It was also due to that key left wing organizations have chosen opportunistic politics rather than seeing the social revolutionary potential in the climate issue. Thus the most radical and social movement oriented left wing parliamentary party in Denmark, the Red Green Alliance had as their political demands towards COP15 demands for emission targets and interstate North South issues as demanding that rich countries use big sums to aid the developing countries and no to global carbon trading.

Thus there were no problems for this party that the issue of social justice was erased from the main messaging. In Sweden the organization mostly involved in the Copenhagen preparatory for the demonstration was Klimataktion, a newly established organization dominated in its leadership by left wingers, many journalists from the anarchosyndicalist trade union weekly. This organization to quite some extent delinked the climate issue from its broader ecological and social political context and reframed it into climate policy concerns. War metaphors and the need for a global carbon trading mechanism based on individual rights was promoted by these left wingers as solutions as well as the need according to some of them to continue using nuclear power. The lack of social revolutionary perspectives or even lack of strong criticism against false solutions was not much of concern for this organization either. During COP15 they merged their twitter from Copenhagen with that of the tcktcktck campaign.

The environmental movement was concerned. With growing tensions between more social movement oriented organizations as FoE and NGOs like WWF there were problems. Thus FoE organized a flood action to feed into the demonstration with one main message, to go against the carbon trading mechanism proposed for the COP15, proposals supported to quite some extent by both WWF and other NGOs. In the second broad initiative in Copenhagen, the Klimaforum dominated by many small ecological and system critical organizations and with the left and NGOs more or less completely marginalized the concern for social revolutionary perspectives were a lot more present. The call against false solutions as nuclear power or other ”technological fixes” was  explicit together with the idea to promote a change by another economic system and base the solutions in local communities rather than trusting politicians to become agents of change. The Danish organisers also were able to make an alliance with global popular movements with social justice concerns strengthening a joint system change not climate change message from Copenhagen. As Klimaforum had 50 000 visitors it is clear that a lot more radical platform than the 12 December initiative call also could achieve broad participation in Copenhagen.

The hidden violence agenda

Police a the end of the 12 December climate march. Photo Avenirclima.info

While the open agenda of the 12 December Initiative was a least common denominator biased in the interest of NGOs and political parties the hidden agenda was also biased, but in a even more problematic sense. At the core of the present Western liberal model lies a denial of its inherent daily violence used against those opposing the militaristic, social, economic and ecological consequences of this present world order. At the core of the dominant solutions promoted by COP15 lie the same problems. The consequences of violent non-solutions or false solutions to climate change are already there to be seen. Violence through promotion of biofuel taking land for local food production in the interest of corporations. Carbon trading promoting land grabbing as well. Individualistic consumerist solutions which supports ever growing social inequalities replacing necessary social change and the violence that follows from this. Lack of action against fossil fuel dependency causing the oil wars and occupation organised primarily or only by the liberal Western world. Refugees from these oil wars as well as climate change refugees violently stopped at the borders or thrown out of the Western countries to mention some of this violence.

Instead of addressing this violence by explicitly opposing false solutions as Klimaforum and Climate Justice Action did the 12 December Initiative chose to keep silent while instead talk more loudly of how peaceful the own demonstration should become. This position could easily by used by such NGOs and trade unions that promote social partnership politics were they together with industry and governments comes to solutions within the framework of the present system. Thus the inherent violence of the system is excepted and what remain the main issue is to oppose any violent forms of protest, or any forms of confrontational non-violent protests as well.

Tcktcktck office in Copenhagen housing the joint big NGO coordination. Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kk/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Thus WWF Denmark announced its position against non-violent system critical protests during COP15 in the British paper The Guardian in July. While Climate Justice Action promoters of non-violent actions talked about that “Everyone close to the negotiations knows that nothing is on the table.” and “Copenhagen will be dominated by false solutions like biofuels and carbon trading,” WWF Denmark disagreed. “We want to influence the summit by engaging as widely as possible ” and dismissed Climate Justice Action’s description of its tactics as “a contradiction in terms”. “You can’t force your way into the conference centre and remain non-violent at the same time,”

In Sweden David Jonstad, one of the left wingers in Klimataktion also strongly opposed Climate Justice Action in a more fully expressed way. He started by presenting a picture ”as in any political movement” there is a conflict concerning forms as if the conflict not was mainly about political content. He phrased the conflict as existing between ”On the one hand, a small group of activists who usually run their own race, does not fear physical confrontation and which represent a more uncompromising line. On the other hand, the political sprawling but larger collection of activists who are set to more non-confrontational demonstrations and protests”. After presenting the case as an eternal conflict and thus not the result of political differences that ought to be addressed nor the possibility of changing the mind of the many and bringing more people into confrontational protests Jonstad continued by appealing to worried people in common:

”I fully understand the desperation that many feel about the poor prospects for that a sensible climate change deal becomes a reality in Copenhagen. But even if the meeting is a failure, it is not the last chance. It may well be the start of a new process in which the criteria for a new climate change deal increasingly becomes marked by greater social justice.”

The outcome in Copenhagen is with other words not interesting, it is only a start of something that will come later. Thus there is no need for a platform for broad protests in Copenhagen strongly going against false solutions and promoting social justice against the solutions promoted at COP15, the only thing we need is distance ourselves from being weakened ”by the fact that a small group riots dominate the external perception of the protests.”

After this clear message were the violence to be confronted mainly lies Jonstad comes up with an even more clear message: ”One issue Climate Justice Action should ask themselves is whether their agenda has greater legitimacy than that set by a meeting under the UN Climate Change.” With other words, Climate Justice Action cannot be right in pushing for its political demands as in the final end, the only thing that counts is that the COP process is more legitimate than any popular movement based solutions. The former journalist at the anarchosyndicalist weekly and now editor of the climate magazine Effect ends by firmly placing the accusation of violence not onto the solutions promoted by COP15 but against the non-violent Reclaim power action: ”I would predict that the people who are most in need of climate justice, the world’s poor, do not feel particularly helped by a violent storm of the climate meeting.”

Thus the threat of violence was as firmly put outside COP15 as it was firmly put outside of the platform as something to oppose in climate politics for the demonstration on December 12. The only violent threat remaining to address was speculations regarding other protesters to be able to present the own initiative in as positive manner as possible.

Celebrity and parliamentarian speakers or from the movements?

In October the power relations changed drastically in favour of a more clear political message. The global popular movements Via Campesina, Jubilee South, indigenous organizations and many others in the network Climate Justice Now! Decided to organize the Reclaim power action togeher with Climate Justice Action. The key organizations in the network were also invited to become members of an international advisory board for the Klimatforum. It was decided that the Klimaforum declaration title would be System Change not climate change, the same as the title of a joint CJA-CJN bloc in the 12 December demonstration. CJA also made a change in its Reclaim power plan by stating the goal as entering the Bella Center area, and not the building.

Poster for the System change not climate change bloc.

The new power relationships within the mass activities was expressed in the debates on speakers at the December12 demonstration. Strengthened by the idea of a joint bloc for all climate justice popular movements including Via Campesina, Friends of the Earth, Attac, Southern based movements, CJA activists, socialists and many others hoping for mobilizing a great part of the demonstration the negotiations could start. But it was a very depoliticized process. For some reason it was only going in one direction. The Danish representatives asking for more and more names while the principles for electing this or that speaker was kept outside the discussion, a depoliticizing procedure that by far was excepted by CJN and CJA. Any organiser of a demonstration of course wants to have a large number of proposals to pick from, the decisive issue is according to what criteria.

On one point early criticism against the proportion of the speakers were only one third would come from the South was criticized. It was changed to half by the traditional method to extend the number of speakers. The original idea was to have three speakers from Denmark, three from other Northern countries and three from the South.

The new promise of having equal amount of speakers from the North and the South was solved in a paternalistic way. 8 of the speakers came from the South and 10 from the North. Added to the 8 speakers from the South were 8 ”witnesses” from Southern continents on climate change presented not by themselves but by the professional advocacy NGO Greenpeace and the NGO Action Aid. 5 witnesses coming from Asia, 2 from Oceania and one from Africa but none from Latin America. Formally the promise of having half of the speakers from the South thus was solved.

Bollywood actor speaking at the 12 December demonstration. Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/americagov/ / CC BY-SA 2.0

Concerning the character of the speakers, an issue characteristically never really discussed, the proportions between speakers from activist networks and popular movements on the one hand and others as celebrities, political parties and professional NGOs was clearly in favour of the latter. Not one speaker was from an activists network as the climate camp movement, 6 can be described as coming from popular movements, Jubilee South, the anti nuclear power movement, indigenous movement, FOEI, the Vestas workers and ITUC. The strongest popular movement in Copenhagen, Via Campesina representing 200 million peasants world wide was not allowed to speak, probably because they upset the Danish organizations by their strong support of the Reclaim power action. Instead a number of celebrities and political parties took centre stage. A top model and an artist from Denmark, a former head on the UN Human Rights Commission from Ireland, a Bollywood artist and a celebrity environmental speaker from India strongly opposed by Indian popular movements and four parliamentary parties from Denmark. Besides these celebrities and political parties there was also one youth lobbyists active inside the Bella Center from India, one representative from Action Aid India and the head of Greenpeace from South Africa elected as speakers. To have speakers from the South did with other words not help getting popular movements on the centre stage, on the contrary were the third world speakers also dominated by celebrities and establishment as the speakers from the North, although some were added as victims presented by forceful NGO actors.

Furthermore were the speakers given very different places to speak. In the beginning at the most privileged time for reaching out to mass media were only celebrities and the political party that later fully supported the police attack on the demonstration as well as ActionAid and Greenpeace with their witnesses allowed to speak. The popular movements were all placed at the very end of the speakers list at the Bella Center with the exception of the indigenous speaker who was allowed to come a bit earlier.

Reacting to repressive culture

The polarization between the different mass activities in Copenhagen remained after the strong intervention from Climate Justice Now in October but became less severe. A fishermen, peasant and worker, all chairpersons of organizations in the interest of a living sea, small farmers and construction workers, signed an open letter criticizing the idea of civil disobedience at the Bella Center claiming COP15 as more legitimate than CJA.

Mobilizing for Climate Justice Action Reclaim Power in Germany

But in general the criticism against CJA lessened from the circles claiming that a big broad demonstration was the best way to put forwards demands in Copenhagen and that CJA was a threat that by choosing a form of action that would cause riot and violence scared people in common off from protesting. One of the reasons was that it became clear to more and more that it actually was CJA that tried to avoid escalation towards violence in Copenhagen while the risk was bigger on December 12 by groups organizing an anti-capitalist bloc in the demonstration used violent rhetoric in their mobilization material. In Copenhagen and on the internet posters signalled symbols for fighting the system and the police with activists in front of a burning city and police cars signed by a network called Never trust a COP, NTAC. Facts that became public in the movement but did not reach the mass media at once.

Meanwhile the Danish People´s Party who denies the need for strong measures against climate change but is all for strong measures against demonstrators proposed stronger laws to enable the police to stop protests even more. The right wing government supported the idea and launched a ”hooligan law package”, directed not against violence as it was stated by the media, but primarily against non-violent bystanders when disorder could happen in a manifestation. The law gave possibilities to mass arrest people arbitrary at the wishes of the police for 12 hours instead of 6 hours and the sentences for not following orders from police and remain in solidarity with others non-violently holding each other arms in non-violent protest was raised from a fine to 40 days in prison at maximum.

Mobilizing in France. Photo Avenirclima.info. Phot Avenirclima.info

The Trade Union Central in Copenhagen reacted strongly seeing in the new law a threat of a police state against any non-violent protest as pickets, strikes etc. Also a coalition of mainly large NGOs, People´s Climate Action reacted strongly while both 12 December initiative and Klimaforum reacted with less force. The general extreme measures by the government  created an image of huge numbers of violent demonstrators coming from abroad to Copenhagen which was negative for the mobilization for the demonstration on December 12 and for all organizing mass activities during COP15. Thus a certain degree of tolerance between 12 December initiative, CJA and Klimaforum started to evolve helped by Jörn Andersen, a key organizer of the mass demonstration and CJA inviting Danish organization for a dialogue. NTAC directed their plans more and more towards own goals during December 12 in the city centre instead of going as a bloc in the mass demonstration to the Bella Center.

The information coming via Danish organizations involved in the demonstration and meetings with the police became more and more odd. One report stated that the police claimed that they did not need the new law package, they could already do all the things that the new law package included. This was true. The only difference was that the sentences now became radically much stronger. This was a clear signal from the majority in the parliament that they wished that the police should be free to interpret the existing laws more generously in their own favour while anyone protesting against this now can get a lot harder punishment and as well not knowing in advance how much as the new law package made drastic changes stating either a fine or prison terms  for minor offences. That the head of the police, Per Larsen stated the opposite from what the police said in the negotiations with the demonstration organisers and strongly supported the new law package instead as the policemen meeting the demonstration organizers claiming that the new law package did not add any new possibilities for the police. Rather then using these contradictory messages it seemed as if the Danish demonstration organizers were paralyzed by the repressive political climate.

Another extraordinary message from the police widely disseminated to the world outside Denmark. The police claimed that if a foreign demonstrator was caught by the police and did not have his pass port with him he could get immediately deported. The risk when tens of thousands of foreign people are participating in a political manifestation that one or some by mistake have forgotten their passports were they stay is obvious. Instead of addressing this very provocative statements by the police the Danish organizers was disseminating the police message as if it was uncontroversial and their single duty to help the police with any demands from the police.

Sticker in Copenhagen proclaiming social war not climate chaos. Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/americagov/ / CC BY-SA 2.0

Suspicions remained between different actors in Copenhagen and when the news about Never trust a COP mobilization rhetoric reached the mass media in Denmark it caused turmoil. The trade unions were on the brink of leaving all cooperation both with 12 December Initiative and Klimaforum afraid of being linked to violent protesters. The security police predicted that the problem was how violent protesters would use the mass demonstration for starting violence. The pressure was also directed against CJA who had links to NTAC actions on its web site. Finally NTAC was dissolved, as it was claimed that the purpose of the network was fulfilled by mobilizing people to Copenhagen, a model also used during British mobilization for G8 protests in Heiligendamm in Germany 2007.

Violence of the system a non-issue

While the violence of the system was hidden there was instead much propaganda to solve the climate crisis by broad coalitions with corporations which were major cooperation partners in the Hopenhagen project. Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/americagov/ / CC BY-SA 2.0

Meanwhile the debate on the violence of protests shifted during the autumn the debate on the violence due to the official politics was more and more marginalized. Friends of the Earth Sweden made an attempt at getting Danish organisations to sign a protest against violent results of the present fossil fuels based society causing refugees and wars as well as the violence caused by land grabbing in the name of solving climate change. No single system critical environmental or left wing or any other organization responded. The arguments against shifted from not mixing policy areas to seeing it as impossible to link the strong protests against deportation of Iraqi refugees to the climate issue. Many key radical left wing organisers of the mass mobilisation of protests against the deportation which within 24 hours mobilized 20 000 on the streets saw now possibilities in doing climate actions during the summit as there were too many police mobilized. And thus they saw no possibilities in linking the issues politically either. The criticism against the violence of the present system and the COP15 agenda was by the Danish organizations and their allies marginalized from the December 12 demonstration into the corner by a No Border Day of Action on December 14. Here it was stated that “Climate Change is an issue in terms of migration because the Global South is suffering and the borders are trying to repress them“. At the Klimaforum an ‘International Campaign on Climate Refugees’ Rights’ was launched by indigenous people from across the globe who called for an opening of the borders in the face of increasing climate chaos. A protest on the climate refugee issue was also made by the parliamentary social liberal Radical party during COP15.

Hopenhagen advertising by Coca Cola i hand written style to look more genuine sabotaged by “Our climate not your business” poster. Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/americagov/ / CC BY-SA 2.0

MS/Actionaid at 12 December initiative march. Photo:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/nios/ / CC BY-NC 2.0

Branding

Another divisive issue regarded branding. This fairly new concept in participatory democracy was strongly used in Copenhagen, especially by Anglo-American actors. The idea is that it is of importance to show the brand of your organization in as many and positive circumstances as possible and especially in mass media. The winner is the organization that can get most attention for its brand with the masses at a demonstration or victims of indisputable hardships in the visible background.

The idea to promote organizational banners in a demonstration for a common goal was for a long time not common in Scandinavia. In recent years it has become more and more common to provide a platform for different organizations to send their own messages if this is not against the often very low common denominator. The left wing and NGOs have made this into a formula proclaiming it to be especially democratic with the open space concept for social forums. Here no common message can be made on behalf of all participants, only each and everyone making their own activity and thus providing a platform for competing brands in the NGO and left wing sector.

Communist party at 12 December initiative march. Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nios/ / CC BY-NC 2.0

This maybe have been useful in countries with extremely split left wing unable to cooperate unless extreme formulas are put into place. To the radical ecological movement this was a threat against building a system critical climate movement. They opposed the social forum formula and instead started an open democratic declaration process for the Klimaforum to make a joint forum statement to be adopted by the Klimaforum and all signing organisations as a whole.

In the December 12 demonstration process this conflict was marginalised by the way it was organised. From the very start the idea to link the demonstration to any political open discussions on the issue was unquestionably uninteresting to the initiators. Thus the whole preparatory process became strongly depoliticized. This can be seen as partly positive as it opened up for the small ecological Danish organization together with global popular movements to build a system critical platform for the counter summit. But it also made the demonstration preparations lacking in transparency.

In the beginning during the spring the meetings were open and reports posted on the official website, all signed by Jörn Andersen. But in the autumn when things started to shift quite dramatically and hard to follow for outsiders the reports were not posted anymore. By mouth one could get information making it possible to understand why a flyer suddenly became chocking pink with a devote support of the world leaders as Oxfam had the necessary money to print them. But in general it was hard to follow what was going on. The last flyer suddenly shifted the image once more, now in neutral blue colour with a somewhat more tuff design and the text changed more accordingly to the official platform although a reference to tcktcktck campign still was there thus stating:

”Between the 7th and 18th of December the future of the planet will be decided at the UN conference in Copenhagen. There is still a chance to build a more green, secure and more fair world, but the clock is ticking. Go together with people from the whole world in a peaceful and colourful global climate action day in Copenhagen”

On the backside social justice was now totally erased and the message was boiled down to three points: ”1. World leaders have to act now to prevent
catastrophic global climate change. 2. The rich countries have to make ambitious cuts in their emissions and help poor 3. The rich countries bear the greatest responsibility for the climate crisis. They have to pay to people in poorer countries, which are hardest hit, so they can adapt to climate change.”

The Friends of the Earth flood action. Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kk/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Throughout the preparation process and also during COP15 and afterwards there were two environmental organizations at the core of the process, Noah, the Danish member of Friends of the Earth International, and Klimabevægelsen, the Danish Climate Movement. Here FOEI influenced the relationships by putting much economic resources into focus upon making its own activity on December 12. As the beginning this was planned as a flood action through Nörrebro district starting at the Agenda 21 local office and ending at Israels plads by forming SOS Climate with bodies coreographed by experts on these kind of action which had been carried out with great success by FoE in other countries. The flood action was mainly seen by FOEI as an issue of logistics as FOE Denmark representatives had agreed to the plans at international preparatory meetings.

This model for choreography action and branding motive caused some debates within Noah were other representatives at the same time were more involved in movement building and cooperation between activist groups. It also meant that Noah representatives at times saw upon the main December 12 demonstration as of less importance and that some other organizations were critical towards the way Friends of the Earth stressed their own activity. The original flood action idea run into several problems. One was that it was hard to gt the political motivation for the content to work in Denmark. The original SOS climate was early on changed into Climate justice but when asking young people at Roskilde festival about this message most people did not understand the point in it. After the confrontations in the middle of Nörrebro in support of Iraqi refugees other issues took the interest of key people in the district. Finally the flood was turned into a feed in demonstration from close to the Klimaforum to the main demonstration with the aim to destroy a huge offset market set up for the occasion at Christiansborg. Once the flood action had dismantled the offset trading point the main demonstration should gather at the same spot for walking to the Bella Center.

Klimabevægelsen did the opposite and put a lot of effort into strengthening the common work with mass activities as 12 December demonstration and Klimaforum. In the end no speaker came from any of the new organization mainly focused on climate while friends of the Earth had a speaker. To put much effort into strengthening ones own organization rather than in solidarity put much effort into organizing something in common seems less successful. After COP15 Noah and Klimabevægelsen have continued a similar division of roles. Both organizes follow up meetings on their own but when Noah mainly focus upon their next campaign for climate law in Denmark Klimabevægelsen makes a very broad meeting with many voices and movemnts present to discuss how to create a broader movement carrying forward the result of the mass manifestations during COP15.

The branding culture thus have two faces. One is the most obvious. That of using the common activity to promote your own organizational identity. The other is to see to that the whole mass activity is a good background for your logo or other branding activity.

Oxfam at 12 December initiative march. Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kk/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The most obvious branding is that of making an organizational logo or designs linked to a campaign as a promotion of a specific organization effectively visible. Here we have the pandas that for the specific global warming occasion have big red and orange flames coming from their heads so hot that they burn. Here we also have the man and women in red suits, red ties and black shirts with the same professionally designed placards fitting the way they dress with the message from the Action Aid global campaign on climate change. Without being very many participants in this kind of stunts dressing, speaking and acting quite often according to the choreography and manuscript made by professionals the result in attention can be quite effective. This kind of activity does not necessarily is limited to undemocratic organizations as WWF or Greenpeace were members cannot influence the political content and most of designs and action preparations are in the hands of a handful professionals with lay people as those carrying out plans made by others.

Also trade unionists used the same method in Copenhagen carrying green working men helmets and equally green clothes under equally green banners with their demands for green jobs. The dress code of different activists groups of more hippie, more young and funky or black bloc design can be seen as similar efforts in sending visible message of group identity although it is not always a specific organization that is promoted. In the case of the black bloc it is also other factors as creating greater problems for police to identify participants that is a reason for the choice of clothes.

When it comes to organization logos it is very clear that this is a branding method used by very many. Organizations with a lot of money but less number of activists can compensate this by mass production of their logo on professionally produced visible objects as big balloons, many small buttons or huge banners. One can also as Greenpeace make huge demonstration objects like many marrionets controlled by a corporate man or a globe with a saving ring and in both cases the Greenpeace logo clearly visible. Organizations with committed activists but little money can make large logos preferably large by hand at a lot lower cost. But especially NGOs and political parties alike but also quite a few popular movements are in different ways today trying to influence the visible impression of a mass demonstration by the use of many organizational logos.

These different branding actions needs a supporting background. It is useful with a very large number of people to create the feeling of representing many. Preferably dressed as people in common and in a happy mood, yet with a serious message and not to competing with the message of the own organization. In this respect the December 12 demonstration was almost perfect. As the common denominator was quite or very low it gave the possibility for many different actors to brand themselves with their logo and message. The only formal limitation was that it should not contradict the common platform. At the same time it included a risk. That of one or some messages standing out very much in a way that would contradict the own message.

If the whole demonstration was embedded in a culture excepting totally the limitations given by the rules and practices of how mass media, police and other established forces want to impose on any protest this would be problematic for some. If the main message was limited to sending signals to the politicians and giving as high establish status to main messages by selection of speakers and use of technology and design for scenes this would be biased in favour of organizations unwilling to take the common platform in any way serious if this would include confrontation with the established society. If the whole atmosphere in which the demonstration was supposed to make a call was embedded in a city full with commercial messages on how the market and thus the established system would solve the climate change problem this posed a problem if not accepting the established order was a main message from the demonstration.

The tcktcktck campaign is an award winning project initiated by advertising companies and sponsored by NGOs and corporations in a flexible manner hard to get an overview of. An interview with executive director Kelley Riggs at the award winning We Media conference you find here: http://tcktcktck.org/stories/campaign-stories/changing-game-tcktcktck-receives-media-innovation-award

This becomes even more accentuated if the demonstration is embedded in general commercial advertising making propaganda for more consumption of goods produced and transported in a manner causing climate change. It also becomes accentuated if the most economically resourceful campaign by some of the organization with speakers and strong influence on the main message of the demonstration in parallel runs a world wide campaign. This with the help of social media building a ”movement” organized by advertising agencies and promoting companies as Coca Cola and BMW as is the case with the cluster of campaigns centred around the tcktcktck brand.

Raise your voice was one of the main messages from the tcktcktck campaign. A call that was helped by a massive social media campaign and as here by different corporations coming together at the central square in Copenhagen sponosored by the municipality and named Hopenhagen. Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/americagov/ / CC BY-SA 2.0

The other problem would be if groups mainly focused on other issues than those clearly related to the platform sees the opportunity to show how radical and willing to confront the established forces they are in general. By destroying general symbols of capitalism or seeking confrontation with the police without a clear purpose. This turns not only those away who might be interested in misusing the demonstration call for the opposite general ideology, claiming total acceptance of whatever limitations the politicians, police or mass media puts on a demonstration. It would turn also very many away who are truly concerned about the issues raised in the common platform.

For some reason more or less the only problem discussed was that of speculations concerning the possibility of violence at the demonstration. Also this issue was awkwardly addressed as if the only cause of violence or disorder can arise from small provocative groups among the demonstrators, not because of lack of discipline and political clarity among the main organizers or by provocations from the police. This in spite of numerous circumstances that the two latter ways often been the main cause of such problems.

Instead of balancing the two risks almost all attention was given to the direction that main stream media, politicians as the Danish People´s Party and the right wing government and the police wanted. CJA was more or less alone in distancing themselves from the dominating message of reducing the role of the demonstration to send signals to politicians as sufficient means for changing politics. This caused a very defensive position towards the the limitless apatite for producing an image of a great threat. The security police PET stated that the threat against security was equal to a threat by Al Qaida. The police stated that the great risk was how violent activists would use a peaceful demonstration to hide and start riots from. The Danish People´s Party and the government could raise the level of expected extreme levels of violence further by introducing extraordinary laws not seen in any other country. This with the help of media who accepted that the laws who were directed against non-violent civil disobedience were presented falsely as directed against violence. That politicians were taking such extraordinary measures seemed well fit into the predictions by the police of a threat as big as a terrorist attack by Al Queda and fitted also the logics of the mass media industry. The mass media seemed to long for spreading news about violence against the system. This instead of revealing the self interest among the police and politicians to paint a dark picture in need of more resources for the police and law and order policies while the daily violence organized by the way rich countries solves the climate crisis goes unexposed.

Attempts were made to counteract the repressive attacks against protests during COP15 but primarily by making individual statements by organizations and avoiding collective stronger efforts. A demonstration against the new hooligan law package gathered 200 participants and now wide support. The dominant branding culture puts the main effort on each organization by themselves eagerly trying to present their organization in mass media as positive as possible while common concerns more easily gets neglected. In the end if ten out of one million demonstrators throws something in the direction of the police without causing any harm, this becomes  the main problem and not if the police arbitrary mass arrest 10 000 of the demonstrators. Collective solidarity against the provocations from mass media, politicians and the police becomes uninteresting, saving ones own name everything.

The most clear opposing methods from the main branding culture of the demonstration came from two different actors. Quite surprisingly one was Greenpeace. The other was CJA. Greenpeace introduced a new innovative method for making banners for the demonstration. In the old days it was quite often in the hands of the participants to bring their own placards and handmade banners, a back to basics model also used today at least at smaller rallies. Then came the period when at mass demonstrations quite often were mass printed material, preferably with a branding logo on it. Greenpeace now came upon the idea to let people decide what message should be on the placards they were willing to sponsor, and furthermore without putting their own logo on the message. The most popular result of this new participatory democratic method was that message “Planet not profit”. As one commentator stated: ”The dominant placards on the march were those distributed by Greenpeace – though they didn’t carry that organisations logo – or reflect their politics!”

Greenpeace sponsored sign at 12 December initiative march. Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/greenpeacefinland/ / CC BY 2.0

How much this really was a genuine democratic idea receiving positive comments everywhere or something else can be discussed. The executive director of tcktcktck campaign states in an interview that what was especially inspiring was that there was so many signs at the big demonstration in Copenhagen with no branding on them, “People just created signs for the global good.” She talks about how  a “massive organism” rather than individual campaigns competing for attention have emerged.

Greenpeace bloc with huge demo puppets and “unbranded” placards all around. Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/greenpeacefinland/ / CC BY 2.0

The organization that funded the massive amount of non branded yellow signs at the 12 December march was Greenpeace which also was chairing the tcktcktck campaign. It is hard to believe that the executive director of the campaign do not know what the chairng organization of the same campaign is doing. It is true that people were invited to create the message on the signs but if Greenpeace and th tcktcktck campign made the sign for “the global good” can be questioned. It is rather understood by professional campign makers that if one runs a campaign hevaliy supporting the culture of bradning it is also udeful to avopid making it to obvious. A neutral unbranded background fits better for those that can afford branding by many means. Thus creating “a massive organism” embedding the whole climate protests and the streets of Copenhagen with a unifying message which takes no opposition for the oppressed countries of th world against the big countries nor any stand against corporations. A branding operation in need of a clever idea of not branding every sign on the 12 December march.

Old fashion hand made banner by JAK, a Swedish alternative bank with the roots in the 1960s. Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nios/ / CC BY-NC 2.0

Climate Justice Action also made attempt at the final meeting preparing the joint system change not climate change bloc organized by CJA and CJN. Against the branding interests of organization the CJA people claimed that they saw now need in separating the joint climate justice bloc. Instead they argued that it should be a part of the demonstration were everyone joined supporting a joint message for system change not climate change. The arguments against were of course weak in principal as strong they were in terms of vested interests. The solution obvious from the very start. Those that did not want to go in a specific part of the system change not climate change bloc braded by some specific part of the climate justice movement but only support the general demand could walk in the CJA section. But the principal arguments raised against branding whether it was directed against NGOs of left wing parties or ideological groups was raised.

Hopenhagen at Rådhuspladsen. Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/americagov/ / CC BY-SA 2.0

Tord Björk

Content 12 December Initiative – huge success or background for branding?

Success or failure?

Uncertain preparatory process

The global climate day of action 2009

The main demonstration

Three left wing parties supporting the police perspective

December 12 in the media

Movement analysis

A demonstration split twice

You find extensive more material on the lack of left wing collective response to the repression December 12 – 18 and analysis at: The ALBA mass meeting: Full of lost left wing possibilities.

COP15: The main demonstration 12th of December

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/greenpeacefinland/ / CC BY 2.0

The huge square in front of the Danish parliament Christiansborg was from the very start filled with the flood and more and more people poured in. The official programme of the joint mass manifestation was supposed to start. Few could hear and even less could see the speakers in spite of effective loud speakers. There were simply too many people and very many things and messages to look at. A forest of yellow placards filled the air stating “Nature does not compromise”, “There is no PLANet B”, “Bla Bla Bla .. Act now”, “Change the Politics not the Climate”, and “Climate Justice Now”.

These were messages that people had stated as important when Greenpeace made the unusual experiment and asked people to suggest slogans via their website and then produced the most popular.

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/americagov/ / CC BY-SA 2.0

A gigantic Karl Marx roomed around with the message It’s the economy stupid, an angry mermaid together with children dressed up as mermaids was swimming in the air and the banners of climate movements, environmental organizations and political parties filled the cityscape. Many had creative dresses of varying sorts which they had done themselves while the resourceful organizations made their stunts with equally dressed people and professionally designed banners and other material.

Photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/americagov/ / CC BY-SA 2.0

The Flood, the churches and the Christiania feed in

The flood starting at Halmtorvet.

Photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kk/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

It all started at Halmtorvet close to the main venue of the Klimaforum. Here thousands of activists dressed up in blue ponchos, some as polar bears, penguins or plain clothes demonstrators. It was the flood action organized by Friends of the Earth International with the support of Via Campesina. The two thousand FoE members coming from abroad had been supplemented by many more Danes and fellow activists making the march lively with some 5 000 participants.

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nios/ / CC BY-NC 2.0

The sun was shining, the mood creative and the message clear, not to false solutions! No to offsetting with global carbon trading! It all ended in front of the former castle Christiansborg and now parliamentary building with speeches by Henry Saragih, general secretary of La Via Campesina International, Nnimmo Bassey, chair of Friends of the Earth International and the participants making a Mexican wave to flood the temporary carbon trading exchange which could not resist the pressure from the people.

Climate Justice action at Vor Frues church. Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kk/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Other feed in activities contributed also to the mass demonstration. “What do we want? – Climate justice! When do we want it? – Now!”. This was the chanting when World Council of Churches gathered with cooperation partners eported on a Swedish Diakonia activist blog. ”It was a nice feeling of inspiration that was spread in my body when we yesterday met at the Vor Frues Plads, here in Copenhagen, for the big demonstration. People from different countries who all were involved in the Countdown to Copenhagen campaign. Now it was finally time! Placards bearing the campaign slogan “High time for climate justice” in a variety of languages had been printed up. So began the long journey to the Bella Center.” From the Bottom meeting Windows of Hope at Christiania people joined the demonstration later in Christianshavn.

The flood taking centre stage were soon the main demonstration starts. Photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kk/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Speeches and chanting

Vandana Shiva speaking from the demonstration stage at Christiansborg. Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/americagov/ / CC BY-SA 2.0

Hajeet Singh from Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke/ActionAid Asia, India, started by presenting climate witnesses from Samoa, Indonesia, Colombia og India.. The first speaker was Rahul Bose, a Bollywood artist followed by Vandana Shiva who explicitly pointed to capitalism as the source of the current environmental crisis, telling demonstrators: “This is what democracy looks like, and the COP15 is trying to kill democracy.”

Kumi Naidoo from Greenpeace and the tcktcktck campign. Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/americagov/ / CC BY-SA 2.0

The chair of the Danish Social Democratic party followed, Helle Thorning-Schmidt and the Danish artist Thure Lindhard and Helena Christensen, a model and photographer. Kumi Naidoo, international general secretary of Greenpeace and chair of the tcktcktck campaign from South Africa made a speech and presented climate witnesses from Uganda, Bangladesh, Tibet and Kiribata. Singing and speaking was also Angelique Kidjo born in Benin in West Africa, ”a Grammy award-winning music recording artist deemed “Africa’s premier diva” by Time Magazine.” according to the official web site information.

People were chanting, singing and dancing. Not many could here the speakers but there was very much other things to do. Hundreds and hundreds of different messages on banners and huge stunts of different sorts ranging from NGO lobbyists to anticapitalists.

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kk/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

“Say hééé! Say hooo! Say Climate Change has got to go!” characterized the atmosphere among the young greens from all over Europe who met and protested together ”for a fair, ambitious and legally-binding agreement.”

The protest involved mainly youth. Jubilee South and Action Aid called for reparations from the First World to repay their ecological debt and aid sustainable development in the Third World.

Green Left Weekly reported vividly from the ”carnival-like atmosphere”:

”An Australian contingent highlighted the issue of global dependence on fossil fuels for power, chanting “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, quit coal now!”

A satirical contingent of green capitalists raised the issue of greenwashing —dressed tastefully in white, they carried platters of grapes, glasses of champagne and placards reading “Greed is green“, “Bangladesh: buy rubber boots“, “Stop global whining”, “We heart green capitalism” and “We love green, but we love fossil fuels more”.

The lead banner screamed, “Carbon trading: the final solution”. One faux banker urged the crowd to “go home and buy some carbon offsets”.

Protesters chanted: “Carbon trading: big lie.”

Despite the widely acknowledged, clear failure of the COP15 talks, the sentiment among protesters was jubilant, positive and determined. Protesters chanted “Our climate — not your business”, “Our world is not for sale” and “Change the system, not the climate” — in fact, radical politics dominated the crowd, if not the platform.”

Photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/americagov/ / CC BY-SA 2.0

The start, NTAC and the police provocation

The demonstration was on the move. Tens of thousands followed the indigenous in the front along the stock exchange and across the bridge towards Christianshavn and the South. 41 different blocs were in the demonstration but the decided order was seldom followed. After the indigenous came a banner stating Politicians talk, leaders act with the Greenpeace bloc including both a huge snowman and a globe with a lifebuoy. Then followed the rest of the tcktcktck campaign with 350.org and a van for the Socialist People’s party surrounded by blue balloons with the party logo. After a while followed a new van surrounded by lively social democratic youth from Sweden singing Bella ciao socialists sons from Italy. Soon after Lega Ambiente from Italy and others proudly carried the yellow Don’t Nuke the Climate banner. Spread out were peace organizations and supporters of liberation of countries as Tibet or Iran.

Belgian trade unionists. Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/americagov/ / CC BY-SA 2.0

Especially popular was the union bloc with a front banner stating Just transition and people all dressed in green including green helmets. Their popularity along the road was raised as they stopped and then started running quickly. After the union came a banner stating Greenwash warning – Stop false solution made by Friends of the Earth Sweden and then a variety of messages including Radical Climate policy – now or never! WWF followed between red flags with the message Vote Earth for a real deal. A van stating system change not climate change and a banner long after stating the same followed with Socialist parties as the red Green Alliance and the New Anticapitalist party NPA from France. Soon after Attac came carrying a banner saying “Don’t let corporate lobbying destroy our climate” together with groups from everywhere including the libertarian socialist bloc. In the end came development organizations as Action Aid and others. Thus the march had started in a bit of chaos but anyway managed move forward to the South.

Meanwhile at Højbro plads, gathering place announced by Never trust a COP, many hundreds or almost thousand was faced by many policemen. The police started to ask if not NTAC wanted to go along with the march that was not far away but in the opposite direction from what was stated in advance.

Many pictures from the 12 December demonstration including Never trust a COP you can find at gipfelsoli.org here 1, 2, 3

When unwillingly moved towards the main demonstration the black dressed people from the NTAC gathering got a bit dispersed. One bigger part came straight into the Action Now bloc consisting of left wing parties as Red Green Alliance, New Anti Capitalist Party from France and other like minded organisations walking in front of the Climate Justice Action bloc. This caused some confrontations including an incident when one person dressed in black was beaten to the ground by someone in the Action Now bloc. The black dressed newcomers were not especially welcome and able to create disorder in the bloc partly separating it. Soon also stones were thrown at windows at the stock exchange. 9 double windows were broken. Soon after passing a bridge one window was also broken on the foreign ministry at the Christianshavn side of the harbour, a police van was hit and things like firecrackers fired in the direction of the police but no reports state that this did any harm. After these incidents the situation calmed down and the police did not intervene here or later against this part of the demonstration.

Socialist libertationist bloc starts walking. Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/americagov/ / CC BY-SA 2.0

Another black dressed group that all along had planned to participate in the main demonstration walked far behind at the end of the large joint system change not climate change section starting with the CJA bloc. After CJA followed among others Friends of the Earth with a sizeable delegation, Via Campesina and movements from the South, Attac and a socialist liberationists bloc were some were dressed in black. From somewhere in this last part of the demonstration one bank window was smashed at the central square in Christianshavn.

The mass arrest of the 918

The police kettle at Amagerbrogade from the Northern side. Photo Avenirclima.info

Half an hour later after passing one more bridge leaving Christianshavn and walking into the Amager district this part of the demonstration was seeing themselves surrounded by heavy police equipment on the Amagerbrogade. The more experienced were able to escape in advance suspicious about the many police vans around. Soon the whole part was stopped very fast by police vehicles that blocked the demonstrators from leaving both from the back and from the front. Only one way was open seemingly without any police in sight. Here a black dressed group started to move quickly soon to be trapped by the police.

Inside the kettle at the beginning. Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kk/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

On Amagerbrogade many people were in quite a good mood as they believed the demonstration only was temporarily stopped by the police as none had seen any immediate reasons for the police to intervene and very few any unruly things happening in their part of the demonstration all along.


At the frontline. People and a public transport activist group from Sweden inside the kettle. Photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kk/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Soon all the rest also on the main street one by one got handcuffed and put into degrading positions shaping line after line in so called fishbone rows. People who had escaped into shops and restaurants were dragged out and all arrested. Some very few were allowed to leave as TV crews and a few other special cases.

Arrested at Amagerbrogade. Photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kk/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Outside the police cordon the reactions were different. At the Bella Center for the first time the TV monitors showed constantly for many hours pictures from the outside world from above on the mass arrested hundreds and hundreds of demonstrators sitting in their fishbone positions hours after hours while delegates looked upon the presented situation. On the street the police had cut the demonstration so both parts of the Attac and the socialist liberationist bloc were trapped but also very many demonstrators of all other kinds as some members of Friends of the Earth, young conservationists, people’s high school students, Hare Krishna nuns, well dressed concerned climate protesters in suits belonging to no group, people from all parts of the world etc. What kept the spirit high was the samba orchestra. Let them go! Let them go! Let them go! the chanting sounded across the police vans between the walls while the drumbeat was shaking the bodies and warmed the hearts. The organizational flags most present outside the police lines were from Attac. Quite a group stayed behind to show their solidarity with those inside the police kettle.

The CJA loud speaker van tried to return to the spot of the arrests but were forced by the police to leave and continue with the main demonstration towards Bella Center. The very last end of the demonstration was directed outside the kettle and joined with the main demonstration. The main demonstration in the hands of the Danish organizers did not bother. On the contrary were the only reported appeals against the mass arrests made by the CJA van outside Bella Center.

Candlelights at Bella Center and vomiting and urinating at Amagerbrogade

Instead the demonstrators were welcomed by disc jockeys and a speech by Mary Robinson, who also started the candle light sea as a sign of hope. The crowd was so huge that most could not see the platform or hear the speakers — instead, the demonstration became a candlelit street party.

At the Bella Center. Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kk/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Speakers following Robinson were Deepa Gupta, from the lobbyist group inside the Bella Center, Indian Youth Climate Network made her speech before Tom Goldtooth from Indigenous Environmental Network in the US made his contribution. After him followed three Danish parliamentary speakers; Margrete Vestager from the social liberal Radical party, Villy Søvndal, party leader of the Socialist People´s Party and Johanne Schmidt-Nielsen, from red Green Alliance. The parliamentarians were followed by João Felicio, from the trade union CUT in Brazil, speaking on behalf of ITUC, Helen Caldicott, anti nuclear power veteran from the US, Ian Terry, Vestas-worker from Isle of Wight, Lidy Nacpil, from Jubilee South and the Asian Pacific Movement on Debt and Development, the Philippines and ending with Nnimmo Bassey, chairman of Friends of the Earth International, from Environmental Rights Action (ERA), Nigeria. Finally a reused sail with climate messages was delivered to the negotiators represented by the head of the UNFCCC secretariat, Yvo de Boer.

At Amagerbrogade. Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kk/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Meanwhile the front of the demonstration celebrated its political awareness and peacefulness while sending signals to the politicians inside Bella Center at Amagerbrogade the part of the demonstration left behind in the hands of the police were more and more treated in a degrading manner. ”People fainted, vomited, lay in their own vomit and urinated on themselves when they were refused to go to the bathroom. One guy was unconscious for an hour before he got help. The atmosphere was very unpleasant, and those who stood up because they were unable to sit anymore were brutally suppressed. Victoria and Olof had to stay tied on the icy sidewalk in very uncomfortable positions for more than 4 hours and Olof then transported to jail (as one of the policemen called “Denmark’s Guantanamo”) where he was forced to sit in the intolerable position in several more hours, still without food, water or access to toilets.” – Witness report from Anton Törnberg, Siri Sandin, Viktoria Viklander, Olof Öhrn.

Countless reports made similar statements. In total 918 people were detained. The police had problems transporting the detained into the special prison set up for the occassion at Valby with cages inside a big warehouse. People were thus forced to sit on the cold ground for 4-5 hours.

Also the media was more severely effected then normally. Main stream press and TV reported that unnecessary violence was used when they were taken away from the scene, that policemen consciously blocked the possibility also to cover what happened with tele lenses and that camera equipment was broken by the police or even that journalists were beaten by the police.

Mogens Blicher Bjerregaard, head of the Danish Union of Journalists, demanded a meeting with the chief of police, and says in a statement that he’s never seen so much criticism of the police at the same time.

The head of the police operation Per Larsen told the press that he was sorry if some innocent people have been subject to mass arrests, but that a rapid and consistent effort had been necessary. In a press statement the police explains the reason for the mass arrest: “As a background to the decision to detain the violent group of demonstrators was also to be taken into account the great importance of the large popular demonstration to not be disturbed by people with another agenda,” Thus the police claimed that it was unfortunate that some innocent were among those mass arrested as those detained was a violent group that was a threat to the great demonstration, or as Larsen put it on TV, the dignified manifestation in contrast to the violent group that was necessary to detain to maintain order. The situation was open for the organisers of the demonstration to state if they shared this opinion of a mass arrest of almost one thousand demonstrators.

Mobilization outside and inside the prison

At Christiania on a distance from the demonstration route and after the mass arrests took place some confrontations started with the police. One policemen was hit by a cobble stone but it soon became clear that he was not seriously hurt contrary to some first speculations in the media. One Swedish activist was also slightly injured as a two-inch firecracker he was carrying exploded. Four cars were set on fire. 55 people were arrested in these confrontations.

The strongest response on the mass arrests came inside the prison. ”Suddenly we heard from the room next to us, protesters who are locked in cages and shout ’Let us go, let us go’ and ’no justice no peace fuck the police’. Rapidly the morale increased and the chanting really made an echo, when hundreds join in the choir inside the warehouse. We are denied water and the room fills up more and more.”

Outside the prison there were also protests by people following the call of CJA and some Danish youth left wing organizations. 250 demonstrators demanded free the political prisoners and were met by a strong police force that used their sticks only once keeping the demonstration 300 meters away fro the prison. One person was arrested.

Tord Björk

Content 12 December Initiative – huge success or background for branding?

Success or failure?

Uncertain preparatory process

The global climate day of action 2009

The main demonstration

Three left wing parties supporting the police perspective

December 12 in the media

Movement analysis

A demonstration split twice

You find extensive more material on the lack of left wing collective response to the repression December 12 – 18 and analysis at: The ALBA mass meeting: Full of lost left wing possibilities.

Dec12: Movement analysis

Analysis from a movement perspective on the December 12 demonstration are few. Climate Indymedia states that the ”Copenhagen climate negotiations have sparked a global justice movement on climate.” referring in general to quantity in participation in the demonstration in Copenhagen and on other places globally, more than 13 million petitions signatures for an ambitious fair and binding treaty, and direct actions in the US. This analysis ends with an appeal ”to continue to pressure national Governments to take decisive action on carbon emissions and for policies that avoid Climate Colonialism”.

Quantity is also a dominating argument in the few other more specific assessments of the demonstration. Often combined with the notion that a new movement was born.

” Copenhagen saw the birth of a new global movement. The first reason was the demonstration on Saturday. The official police estimate was that there were 100,000 marchers.” Jonathan Neale, SWP

The Red Green Alliance marching toiwards Bella Center December 12. From RGA website.

Per Clausen from Red Green Alliance could not say to Modkraft with certainty whether a new movement is born. His arguments echoes that of the other left wingers: ”But he is optimistic. Particularly in view of the large attendance at the 12th-December rally ‘People First – Planet First’, which gathered 100,000 people.”

Another Red Green Alliance activist, Thomas Eisler, member of the national board and also active in the trotskyist 4th International makes a similar judgement together with .. in International Viewpoint:  ”certainly the number of demonstrators on the streets of Copenhagen is a proof positive that it is possible to develop mass mobilisations on the issue of global warming.

Political parties, trade unions and peasants organisations were also present in this colourful, radical and truly internationalist demonstration through the bitterly cold streets of Copenhagen to the fortress of the Bella Centre where the summit itself was taking place. If the majority of the official negotiators seem to have no answers to the threat of climate chaos, those on the streets have many.

But it is what happened on December 12 that sums up the real step change for the movement for Climate Justice. That mobilisation itself was of course proceeded by significant demonstrations in many individual cities and countries across the globe as the summit began on December 5.”

The indepedent left winger Rene Karpanschof is less positive. Also he starts with the quantity argument. ”The massive demonstration on 12 resembles an immediate success.” But he continuous: ”At the Bella Center experienced many, however, a sort of anticlimax. No political statement or action which could translate the huge crowd to put further pressure on the negotiators inside the center.”

He states that: ”Large crowds signal that ‘we are here and so many are we’, the ‘this is what we want’ and ‘we can create problems. Demonstrations are a signal that many committed people might continue with various activities, criticism and exposure of the public to a degree that politicians have to take stock of.  … Politicians are particularly susceptible when sympathy for the protesters spread and when the protests proliferate, so it seems unpredictable and uncontrollable, what it all can become. Normally, a march of the format there appeared the 12th December impress. This time, however, it was all sorts of decision makers who would be affected, and as we now know, neither led the peaceful demonstration or pressure from numerous NGOs to any climate agreement. So, only partial success for the peaceful strategy.” Karpanschof did not bring in the mass arrest in his overall assessment of the demonstration which is remarkable.

COP15 Don’t buy the lie action December 11.

A communique from parts of the Black Bloc during the demonstration made the repression their main focus. Shortly after releasing this communique, windows of the Danish stock exchange and Foreign Ministry were broken.

This communique opens with the claim that ”There seems to be a common logic between the government delegates, the NGOs who control the march, and even the radical ecological activists: we are all saving humanity together. Who would not want to fight for this? And even if you did not, do you even have a choice?”

And continuous: ”What does it imply to have faith in the existence of a single political unit that binds us all together? In the united and pacified world imagined in Copenhagen, politics become obsolete. What if the mobilization of the entire city and even the protests were nothing but an immense peacekeeping operation?”

The message from some in the black bloc concludes by linking a criticism of a perceived socially neutral ecology vision with the emergence of a global police state: ”The enthusiasm with which all political stripes have been converted to ecology teaches us about the true nature of this new green universal religion. From the heart of the Bella Centre to the most passionate of activists, beyond all differences in tone, one can hear the single and only call to submit yourself. … To control our desires, and most of all, to not disturb the delicate equilibrium. Ecology presupposes the same conception of existence that characterizes the police: danger is everywhere, and first of all, in ourselves.” The analysis from parts of the black bloc concludes: ”And if police, in all its forms, is the new essence of global politics, What do you think we should do?” (the last part of the sentence put in uppercase)

The internal discussions at the Danish anarchist forum became very fierce on the views in this communique. In general the criticism against Never trust a COP among some 200 contributions was very strong. In spite of that the most common position in this forum is to accept black bloc tactics when seen as appropriate it was seen as totally against the ideas of respect for different tactics to enter the main demonstration and use this tactic from there. Although the arbitrary mass arrest was blaimed on the police many also accused the Never trust a COP activists that started to throw stones at windows to give the police the excuse they wanted.

At the Swedish socialism.nu forum the discussion has been less in the direction of blaiming the NTAC for giving the police an excuse for intervening against the demonstration. Here it is many regarded as a fact that the new hooligan law package was attempted to be used against innocent demonstrators and activists:

” ’The Hooligan package’ went through to be used. The police had prepared for a mass arrest in several months. Exactly how the police subsequently legitimize the arrest is of little importance. The package’s core was to arrest people, without that something needs to have happened. The fact that a certain degree of militancy and civil disobedience had been seen before in large demonstrations were reason enough to use package. It is therefore entirely useless to sit and speculate whether it was the rock against the Danish bank or rocket against the police van 1328e that was the problem.”

At the Swedish left wing forum the discussions is more lively with more than 700 contributions in the thread about COP15. While the Danish discussion gest bogged down in status war on how good or bad the NTAC tactics had been the Swedish discussion sometimes attempts at getting further. Here is one person after claiming that NTAC obviously could not implement the tactic they had chosen as it was based on a wrong understanding of militancy from the very beginning of old fashion summit protests ”without having anything to stand on more than a vague black block community”:

” I see a problem with the radical left, which is larger than the “black block”. And it is that we move away from the other left more and more each year. .. We even can see our comrades in the broad Left imprisoned by the thousand, and yet see how they turn the anger against us instead of repressive police tactics and the right wing politics.

Of course, this is partly a legacy of past summit riots and so on. (as many pointed out), but far from only. This marginalization has been highly self-selected and sustained for many years. Communication between us and the broader Left is completely absent. And I do not mean planning and cooperation. We fail to communicate our own policies, even against people who have the most basic understanding of left politics. If we fail to reverse this trend at large than we’ll have to sit many more hours in climate prisons, rolling arrests and in urinating spots on Danish shopping streets in the future.”

People first – planet first demonstration at the starting point. Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/americagov/ / CC BY-SA 2.0

There are at least three more political contents that are put forward in the analysis made. One puts the emphasis on ”a ‘real deal’ that adheres to scientific targets”, another on climate justice and a third on criticism against profit based society. As one commentator puts it: ”While the delegations from the countries from the Global South were necessarily smaller than those from the Europe their presence was warmly welcomed – and the popular slogan of Climate Justice Now was clearly seen by most protestors as meaning the leaders of the rich countries needed to listen to the demands of the global south – and was also seen as one of the essential demands of the day.”

Left wingers finds it important to stress that ”Indeed the radicality of the slogans which dominated a mobilisation which involved most of the large non-governmental organisations as well as more radical sections of the climate justice movement was noteworthy.”

Another conclusion by Socialistiskt Arbejderparti, a section of the 4th International and active in Red Green Alliance, is ”that an inspiring movement have been born in Copenhagen. So far the climate negotiations have been dominated by big NGO’s and organizations attempting to perform ’progressive lobbying’. But the 12th of December demonstration proved, that climate changes have become an issue, that compels thousands of people to take the streets in one of the largest demonstrations in Danish history and one of the largest ever on the issue of climate change. Many of the people, who took to the streets on the 12th did so under slogans critical of the system such as ’Planet – Not Profit’, slogans, that had been chosen after an internet vote and in this way expresses a growing critique of the profit based and -oriented society.”

But most interesting assessment goes beyond figures and tries to tell us something more. Madeline Kovacs writes: ”Sometimes it’s hard to describe an experience. Sometimes words, film, or photos fail to capture the overwhelming feeling that we are witnessing something truly extraordinary. We say, ’You just had to be there.’ …

The positive energy around the march and the speeches was overwhelming, and those who where there came away with a sense that they had just been part of a great moment in this movement, and in our planet’s history.

Yes, arrests happened. Yes, it’s important to mention that. Arrests are sexy, and it’s okay to maybe even give them a bit more attention than they deserve. But the main story was that hundreds of thousands of peaceful walkers showed united support for a solution to climate change. That this message is quickly being drowned out is worrisome.

As a young person, I am determined to share the positive side of this day’s events. My generation cannot afford the continuation of a polarizing conversation around climate change, based on selective and sensationalist media coverage.

Youth need the world to hear the core message: There were millions of people this weekend who stood up and declared their support for a ‘real deal’ that adheres to scientific targets, to come out of these talks. And, encouragingly, they are ready to take positive action, and demanding the same from our world leaders.”

Tord Björk

Content 12 December Initiative – huge success or background for branding?

Success or failure?

Uncertain preparatory process

The global climate day of action 2009

The main demonstration

Three left wing parties supporting the police perspective

December 12 in the media

Movement analysis

A demonstration split twice

You find extensive more material on the lack of left wing collective response to the repression December 12 – 18 and analysis at: The ALBA mass meeting: Full of lost left wing possibilities.

COP15 ALBA mass meeting: Full of lost possibilities

Content
The COP15 promising ALBA mass meeting, see below.

The lost left wing opportunity

How the left supported the police against demonstrators in Copenhagen

Day by day reactions on repression December 12 to 18:

Saturday 12th of December – Come safely to peaceful demonstration

The left wing cover up

Sunday 13th of December – ”we were violently opposed”

Monday 14th of December – ”unfortunately too many arrests”

Tuesday 15th of December ”It does not belong in a democracy”

Wednesday 16th of December – “No soft feelings”

Thursday 17th of December – ”Eat breakfast with Morales”

Friday 18th of December – International networks demonstrate against Danish repression

Danish self-criticism

Why is the left promoting police perspectives?

Danish political claustrophobia

The way the Danish left assess Copenhagen

The paternalistic Red Green Alliance

Trotskyist climate heroes without guts

Non-parliamentary left: A Waterloo for activists, not a new Seattle

From anti neoliberal left to authoritarian state-media governance left

Other material:

12 December Initiative – huge success or background for branding?

Open letter on Denmark’s freedom and legal situation

The whole world on trial

The Fall of the Bella Wall: Power Reclaimed

Activist setting up ALBA meeting posters. From ALBA meeting website

The COP15 promising ALBA mass meeting

Seldom has so many organisers been misusing a great opportunity for political intervention to support climate protesters and democratic rights in general as at the mass meeting at the Valby hall on December 17 at 16.00 in Copenhagen during COP15. What could have been a strong left-wing contribution to the climate justice struggle became more of an exotic political show for Western Europeans to hope for other parts of the world to bring about change. I will come back to these critical remarks in length at the end of this article but first a regular report from the meeting.

As such the meeting was predictable. It filled its purpose well of being a unique chance to meet many presidents or vice presidents from progressive regimes in Latin America and the Caribbean from the so called ALBA countries. Sometimes the feeling of being many at the same place sharing a hope together is of importance for sustaining everyday struggles. The role these countries have made it relevant during the Climate Summit to invite their leaders to share a moment of hope that it least somewhere changes can takes place in the whole society of social and ecological importance. Cuba for being the maybe best example on earth on practical transition to a sustainable society. Bolivia for being an example for promoting climate justice demands. In general all ALBA countries for being examples of creating better conditions for the majority of people bringing hopes for alternatives. As the title of the meeting stated: ALBA a solidarity and sustainable alternative.

The meeting started in traditional working class movement style with the Red Horn orchestra followed by welcome speach from the initiator Danish-Cuban Association and Anders Olesen, chair of the Danish Construction Workers Union, an organization also providing security guards. The Danish well known Savage Rose were playing as well as the protest singer David Rovics from the US who celebrated ”St.Patricks Brigade”, Irishmen who fought on the loosing Mexican side in the war against US 1846. Other musicians performing were Wayna Rap, Los Alejandros and Tamra Rosanes. There were almost 4 000 participants according to the organisers, 2 500 sold tickets at 100 Danish crowns and as many participants  according to the main stream press and 3 000 to 4 000 participants according to friendly press.

Poster on the ALBA meeting website

At 17.30 Esteban Lazo, vice president of Cuba entered the podium as the first speaker. He greets the meeting by saying that the first five years of ALBA has been celebrated in Havana. A human and solidarity alternative that shows that another world is possible.

The response greetings to Fidel Castro and the Cuban revolution by the participants of the mass meeting. ”Cuba Si! Yankee No!” is the call from the floor and Lazo answers, I bring greeting from the Cuban president Raul Castro, and the leader of the Cuban revolution Fidel Castro.

ALBA is not an alternative only for Latin America and the Caribbean, but for all people of the planet he continues. The Alba countries are today standing together with the progressive forces in the rest of the world in the struggle for the right of life and earth. We have to salvage this earth because we have no other.

This is why the most important battle of humanity is taking place in Copenhagen these days. Lazo described the problems in the negotiations and the need not to allow the control of CO2 emissions come into the hands of the market. We should not speculate in the future of our and our children’s future. We are fighting not only for social justice but also for human survival. The solution to the climate problems lies in a new economic model that puts people at the centre concluded Lazo.

Nicaraguan Foreign Minister Samuel Santos followed him stating that the ALBA countries alternative was the only sustainable. Santos made a similar speech as Lazo but was also responding to a comment from the audience in Spanish saying ”mujeres”, women. As the left wing Nicaraguan government have been accused by feminists movements for oppressive abortion laws the Foreign Minister was well prepared. He informed about free health care for women after and how mother care and family planning have saved many women’s life.

Chavez and Morales in Copenhagen, http://www.flickr.com/photos/tantundem/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The podium became more and more full of a mix of people, diplomats, an admiral in white uniform, security guards; from many members of the ALBA bloc. During Santos’ speech the atmosphere became more tense and people started to wisper that Evo an Hugo had arrived. Than from behind the scene they entered, the Bolivian and Venezuelan presidents that so many had waited for: »Compañeros!«. The cameras were flashing, hands shaken, bodies embraced at the podium and wolf whistling, chanting and applause from the audience at the scene and those sitting at the galleries comes forward to great the socialist leaders. »Venceremos! – Let’s win!«.

The Bolivian president enters the speakers tribune greeted by chanting from the floor:

»Evo – Evo – Evo de nuevo!«

Some presidents do not want to discuss the causes behind climate change, Morales started coming directly from the negotiations. I will tell you the cause: Capitalism. Capitalism is the worst enemy – both for life and the climate. – Let’s unite and defend our earth, Morales challenged the meeting.

Inside the Bella Centret the leaders of the rich countries defend capitalism, a society of abundance for a few and wastage, the president told the meeting.

»We are not alone on the struggle to protect Mother Earth. Only the support from blow can change the world. Help me say loud. The planet or death – Let us win! cried Evo Morales. The audience responded willingly.

Then the Bolivian president Evo Morales surprised by announcing that a popular referendum is underway, and has been proposed for the entire world, to find out whether the world’s citizens would support or reject ideas for saving “Pachamama” (Mother Earth).

His speech was greeted with applause on several occasions. Morales affirmed that even if the governments of the rich nations rejected such a referendum, the peoples represented in the organizations and demonstrations in Denmark had already expressed, with their protests, their initial approval of the initiative.

Evo suggested the following questions for a worldwide referendum on climate change:

“..Do you agree to restore a harmonious relationship with Nature recognizing the rights of Mother Earth…?”

Siiiii  is the positive response in Spanish from the floor.

“…Do you agree to change this excessively consumerist and wasting model, that is, the capitalist system…?”

Si once more.

“…Do you agree that the developed countries should reduce and reabsorb their greenhouse effect gas emissions so that the temperature do not raise more than one degree…?”

Once more the hall is in unity with the speaker.

“…Do you agree on transferring everything that is currently being spent in wars to create a budget higher than the defence budget to tackle the problem of climate change..?.”

Yet again is the answer from the floor Si!

”…Do you agree in setting up a special court to sentence climate criminals?”

The hall agreed loudly. All five proposals had been adopted. Evo Morales had proposed exactly the same demands at the official conference with some minority support (except for the limitation to one degree temperature rise if Fidel Castro’s reports is correct). He concludes that we now finally had agreed to a document at this summit.

As he was finishing his plenary speech for the basis for a world wide referendum Hugo Chavez came to his side. While Evo had used 15 minutes for his speech, Hugo now used two hours.

From telesur

“Long live the young people, the volcano of socialism, the volcano of the peoples!” So did Hugo Chavez start his speech. “On behalf of Venezuela, the Bolivarian revolution, the ALBA, I want to thank very much, the invitation to this event,” he said. It was all on live Venezuelan public service TV.

“Long live Bolivar!” continued the president, recalling that on December 17, but on 1830, Simón Bolívar died. “Bolivar was an example of what should be a young revolutionary”, assured Chavez to those present.

Chavez received his strongest response from the floor in the beginning of his speech when he declared himself a feminist, and said that all socialists and Marxists also must be feminists and support the rights of women.

From telesur

Only unity will bring us victory stated Chavez and quoted or mentioned both the Inca indian leader Túpac Amaru, Rosa Luxemburg, the Cuban revolutionaries Jose Marti, Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, Nicaragua national hero Sandino, Jesus, Muhammed and the Danish philosopher Søren Kirkegaard in his speech. He especially praised the activists inside and outside the Bella Centre conference and criticized strongly the brutality of the police.

– I have seen much hard repression on the streets of Copenhagen these days, Chavez cried out, repression that you do not see in Cuba, Ecuador or Bolivia. He specifically gave full support to the attempt by demonstrators to use non-violent civil disobedience to enter the Bella Centre. System Change not climate change, the slogan used by the protesters was many times repeated in his speech.

Chavez addressed the threat from US against the new socialistic revolution in the South and how new military bases are erected. Behind the facade of Obama the imperialists tries to stop this revolution and to threaten all the Latin American people. But we will resist and see to that that the empire will be defeated.

– The revolution in the North is coming. I feel it. People in the north, unite with people in the South and let us together make the great world revolution against imperialism, capitalism and death! The celebration of these words exploded when Chavez resounding voice and fist signaled to the committed mass meeting participants the socialists revolution also in Europe.

Have you red the Communist manifesto? Read it again! It will be relaunched. From Caracas we have called a meeting to establish a 5th International. As Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels established the 1st International, Rosa Luxemburg, was among those establishing the 2nd International, Lenin made the 3rd International and Trotsky formed the 4th International we are of the opinion that it is time to call for, to gather, to start the struggle for the 5th International. An international of both parties, social movements and trade unions building upon Marxism, socialism, communism and the true spirit of Christianity and Islam.

Organize, Chavez challenged the floor and the meeting became excited.

– A united people can never be defeated! Chavez! Chavez! Chavez! was chanted in chorus by the participants.

After his speech Chávez went down to Morales and put his arm around him on the podium.

– ¡Viva el socialismo! – Long live socialism they cried out.

– ¡Viva!, – Long live!, the floor responded.

”¡Hasta la victoria, Siempre!” – Towards victory always!
”¡Patria, Socialisme o Muerte! Venceremos!” Fatherland, socialism or death!

Shouted Chavez and he and Morales jumps down from the podium to reach out to all the outstretched hands in the front row. With them came rather surprised and not very pleased security guards and some somewhat lost Danish policemen while Hugo and Evo now slowly went along the barrier shaking hands and talked to people taking a good time doing it for almost half an hour. The band Somos una Venezuela could finally start very late after schedule while many now were leaving enthusiastic about their experience according to many reports. As one report concluded: They went from there with a hope in their hearts: Another world is possible.

The lost left wing opportunity

The mass meeting in the Valby hall 17th of December was a lost left wing opportunity to support the climate justice protesters. One can wonder why. In scale it had only two indoor competitors. Al Gore was supposed to speak at an indoor mass meeting organized by Berlingske, the most conservative daily in Denmark since 250 years. 3 000 tickets were sold but refunded as Al Gore chose to not come. The main stream climate campaigners gave walk over to the left. The other competitor was the other mass activity in Valby during COP15, the so called climate prison with the infamous cages were the detained got pepper sprayed by the authorities if they protested to much against their degrading treatment. In total almost 2 000 were detained during COP15, most of them in this Valby temporary prison. According to reports the protest spirit in this prison were at times as high as in the Valby hall, and maybe more lasting.

The ALBA mass meting on December 17 waspart of a dynamic between three other mass activities, see: http://www.aktivism.info/socialforumjourney/?p=742

The ALBA mass meeting was perfectly timed and placed in relation to the political process of inside and outside activities during COP15 7th to 19th of December 2009. In Copenhagen four mass activities were organised to politically intervene in the climate negotiations and/or build an independent climate justice movement. All four complementing each other both in form and their political direction. The December 12 demonstration built on the idea of a low common denominator and large variety of expressions, even contradictory. A market place for demands mainly to put pressure on governments for a ”real deal” and thus state centric in its dominant appeal. The Klimaforum starting on December 7 with a political unified goal to challenge the ideology and practical proposals followed by the dominant forces inside COP15 more focused system critique and on movement building and diverse local solutions. The Reclaim power mass action on December 16 challenging the official conference directly by attempting at disrupting it during a day of mass civil disobedience. And finally the mass meeting on December 17 with presidents from Venezuela and Bolivia supporting sustainable alternatives to the present model of development promoted by COP15 with a socialist state centric tendency at the bottom.

The mass meeting came the day after protests reached a peak when civil disobedience activists both on the outside and the inside demanded system change not climate change in the Reclaim power action. The mass action could succeed in political practice. Although the action was violently stopped by the police when the two groups were less then 50 meters from each others the protesters got full support from the tribune inside the general assembly of UNFCC by the president of Bolivia and Venezuela. What the mass action failed to do physically against a violent police force it succeeded by building a political alliance across the wall around Bella center.

Thus the presidents of the ALBA countries and those Danish organizations that arranged a mass meeting with them the following day had the best of opportunities to take initiatives for moving the struggle ahead. Morales or Chavez would certainly not stopping the Danish organisers to take such a political intiative. On the contrary they supported the protesters goal of system change as well as protested against the heavy repression. The situation was considerably helped by the facts that for the first time ever the police of a host country of a UN meeting had been violently attacking accredited UN delegates when they wanted to leave the official venue and furthermore that 918 demonstrators had randomly been arrested during a mass demonstration some days earlier in an act of police violence against democratic rights which probably lack any precedence in Europe the last 50 years. People from almost any kind of movement, young conservationists, Hare Krishna, Friends of the Earth and Attac members, Socialists and people’s high school students. For some reason had the Danish organisers not acted collectively defending their demonstrators. Some actually supported the police as the Social Democrats while the spokes person for the organisers made a press statement about disproportionate police behaviour as if these acts of diverging messages to the media was sufficient reaction on the massive degrading and anti democratic treatment of demonstrators.

The political content was already worked out in unity at the Klimaforum in the declaration process ending in the demand System Change – not climate change, something that all actors agreed to from the Climate justice bloc that was attacked in the demonstration on December 12 to the Reclaim power action to the ALBA presidents. The title of the mass meeting in the Valby hall fitted well in – ALBA a solidarity and sustainable alternative. A politically better situation for a system critical movement of movements had not occurred in many years when peasants, environmentalists, indigenous, women, workers, antiimperialists, pacifists and above all young people were building a long term political program for climate justice. The great obstacles had been differences in  tactics and the extreme level of repression.

Formal Danish organisation whether left-wing, environmental, trade unions or others had all with one exception been advocating that the problem were activists and especially activists that wanted to use civil disobedience at the official COP15 venue. This in their eyes would result in immediate violence which had to be avoided at any cost. In Denmark the formal system critical organizations stated in chorus it is impossilble to defend any civil disobedience at a legal assembly as the UN. Thus the Danish activist network that jointly organized the Reclaim power action together with global mass movements as Via Campesina, Jubilee South and People’s Movement on Climate Change was isolated by all formal organisations in Denmark as a threat to mass mobilisation in the form of a broad demonstration together with NGOs and celebrities as speakers.

Many actually accused the Reclaim power action for the new laws and extreme repressive police tactics that emerged in Denmark,. This trend has been going on for many years in Denmark both during the present right wing governments and earlier during the centre-left governments. By challenging this trend towards escalating repression those claiming the need of non-violent actions at Bella Center was accused of causing growing repression and thus also threatening the necessary large scale mobilisation for the broad December 12 demonstration. If only people stayed away from any confrontational actions, maybe did some civil disobedience far away from the politicians, police repression would be so much less was the political thinking behind this attitude. For many people from the third world this kind of Danish thinking was completely impossible to understand as if repression is the result of that some organizes non-violent direct actions and confrontational protest and not the result of social relationships and material conditions in society.

By December 17 there had been all chances to discuss the matter with the movements from the rest of the world willing to take part in the Reclaim power action as they had been in Copenhagen for more than a weak. The Danish system critical organisations whether ecological or left wing had all chances to have a dialogue with their international cooperation partners. After all the Climate Summit was not only a Danish business.

Preparing for anti repression demonstration at Klimaforum December 17. Photo Tord Björk

By December 17 it was also obviously clear to everyone that the Danish formal organizations were wrong. No violence was caused by the activists during the December 16 action at all. The very little bit of violence during COP15 had taken place on Saturday outside the demonstration close to Christiania when a policemen was reported being hit by a stone although no reports claimed any serious harm. Property damage was also not the case during the Reclaim power action and very little on December 12, a dozen windows broken by demonstrators who were forced into the main demonstrations contrary to their plans to go elsewhere. The repression excesses by the Danish state were completely exposed as outrageous to anyone able of doing some political work.

It was with other words a perfect situation to make a collective support for democratic rights against the governmental and right wing xenophobian and climate sceptical Danish People’s party to drastically raise already extreme repression laws and police tactics against protesters. 918 people had been arrested for doing nothing in a normal demonstration and then had the police used many kinds of violence to prevent a joint inside-outside People’s Assembly close to the fences of the Bella center area. If there was any chance to revert this drastic attack on democratic rights in Denmark with great risks for the rest of Europe and the world it was now.

There was certainly a sufficient number of left- wing organizations arranging the mass meeting. They included five local trade unions, four communist parties and the red Green alliance, Friendship organisation with Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea and Bolivia as well as some solidarity organizations with Latin America and the world and Artists for Peace.

Many of these organizations of course produced individual statements as did any serious environmental organisation or Amnesty protesting against the mass arrests. But to do something in common was far beyond what the Danish left-wing organizations thought of as necessary. Collective action and mass movement is a common word in the language of these organisation, but when this collective action is needed and the mass movement exist and is under attack the response from these formal left wing organisation is a refusal to do anything about it.

This extremist position to allow the police to freely use the new anti democratic laws which the Trade Union Central in Copenhagen  called police state laws needs an explanation. Why can we not anymore in a common European state trust the left-wing to defend popular movements, let alone their own interests anymore?

The resources were at hand. One of the Communist parties arranging the mass meeting publishes a daily, actually the only daily linked to any left wing party in Denmark. The parliamentary Social democrats, Socialist People’s Party and the Red Green Alliance long ago let their dailies and even weeklies sometimes pass away and lack own strong media to reach out with their message. But Arbejderen, The Worker, exists and reaches out to quite a few as it is the only left-wing daily in the whole country with more than 4 000 subscribers. Furthermore has most of the Communist parties as well as the Red Green Alliance youth groups that are quite a lot involved in the street actions going on and do not lack organizational capacity if needed. There is capacity to mobilize in Copenhagen among the left. Some hours after the police struck against oil war refugees from Iraq and violently started to deport them from the Brorson church in Copenhagen half a year ago 20 000 demonstrated in a fast reaction.

But this time the leftwingers chose to avoid initiating a Danish collective action to protest against the heavy repression in spite of that it would have been very simple to get broad support also from organizations as Friends of the Earth International and about any international organisation present. The only thing needed would actually have been to join the initiative on the way already for a demonstration the next day on December 18. The Valby hall meeting would be an excellent opportunity for Danish organizations to take a lead in mobilizing the Danish people against the degrading treatements and arrests. After all Danish organizations can better mobilize people in Copenhagen and follow up on the necessary anti repression work in this country than international organisations can do.

But the Danish left-wing rather clapped their hands when Chavez and Morales protested against the repression on the streets of Copenhagen than wanted to do something about it themselves with the support of the ALBA presidents.

So why did they chose to stay passive against their own self interest and against the need of the global mass movements that they so much talk about in their newspapers?

There are at least some factors behind this lack of solidarity. One is isolation. The formal left wing in Denmark had chosen to organise their own activities far from any interest in cooperating internationally or as a force inside movement building mass activities as the Klimaforum or Climate Justice Action. Only the cooperation with main stream NGOs who chose celebrities or party leaders as speakers for the demonstration was to them of interest as they could use this lowest common denominator activity to brand their own organization rather than to contribute to building a mass movement.

Thus contrary to e.g. Sweden during European Social Forum did the Cuban friendship association state that they were only interested in making their own activities at Klimaforum and not as the Swedish Cuban association state that they wanted both to make their own activities and contribute to the common work during ESF. In Sweden the Cuban association representatives became a coordinator of the program group and did many other tasks for the common good, in Denmark the main initiator behind the ALBA meeting, which officially was part of the Klimaforum program but placed elsewhere due to lack of sufficiently big hall, was the Danish Cuban Association who chose to isolate itself from any common responsibility for the Klimaforum.

And so did all their left wing cooperation partners that arranged the ALBA meeting. Why do something to enable a mass movement to evolve when one can sit in isolation to clap the hands in hope that people on the other side of the planet shall make the revolution for you or walk in a demonstration branding your organization were the media message is to a large degree controlled by NGO celebrities?

Furthermore the Danish organizers had no links to their international counterparts. The kind of traditional state centric left wing politics which dominates the organisers of the ALBA meeting have its strong counterparts on the international arena in the People’s Movement on Climate Change as well of course in the ALBA countries. PMCC was the most loyal of all international networks towards all mass activities in Copenhagen not imposing it own will but giving strength from the very beginning to common efforts thus uniting the Danish and international partners. While many other international networks had much of their own agenda and only slowly started to be interested in such an initiative as Klimaforum PMCC was there from the very start to the end. They insisted on the need for stating that the economic system have to change and national sovereignty as important but for the rest they at many times in the Klimaforum declaration process could contribute with consensus formulations from their long time work with mass movement cooperation mainly in the South and with migrant communities in the North. When I in October informed them about the ALBA meeting they knew nothing about it although it had been initiated already in the summer and PMCC had been clearly visible at the international CJA preparatory meetings in Copenhagen. But the Danish left wing is primarily internationalist in words and primarily with those in power at state level it seems. Internationalism in practice in the climate justice movement was not what interested the Danish Left wing 2009.

Reclaim power banner during the December 18 anti repression march, Photo Avenirclima.info

Another reason for the lack of interest in solidarity with the international movement in Copenhagen was that many left wing organisations in Denmark had been strongly advocating against the reclaim power action and instead promoted the December 12 demonstration. Their argument was that it would be impossible for the public to understand why a civil disobedience action took place to establish a People’s Assembly inside the Bella center area. If the mass movements from the South as Via Campesina which most of these left wing organisations strongly claim they support as long as they organise heroic struggles far from Denmark saw such a need, that was not of interest to discuss. Danish organisations are primarily Danish organizations and as such racist. It is useful to use Via Campesina as an exotic example in their propaganda but not as a cooperation partner then maybe something is at risk. The control freak of any Danish organization seems than to become a maniac against even his own interest with the exception of very few individuals or organisations that alone have to carry the burden of the many.

The daily Arbejderen was one of these left wing spaces used by representatives of the Communist party owning the paper to state that the Reclaim power action was bad and the demonstration on the December 12 was the good alternative. The chair of the construction workers union in Denmark who was the only Danish key note speaker at the ALBA mass meeting had the same opinion in a letter published in a few Danish dailies signed also by a fisherman and a peasant, both chairpersons of other social movement organisations. It took a very long time before any system critical formal organisation made their strong opinions against the Reclaim power action public but once they did so it seems as if nothing anymore can change their mind, even when it is clear that they were wrong.

The Danish super model that was selected speaker at the December 12 demonstration was on one main Danish television channel the only political messenger of the 100 000 voices in the demonstration. Between pictures of her catwalking in her model career she stated that there are quarrels in any family and so there is at COP15 but in the end the problems will be solved. The message of how police were beating UN accredited persons on their way to the People´s Assembly December 16 could not be misunderstood, the claims by some or many formal Danish organisations that the activists would become violent was shown to be completely false and the action got full support from Morales and Chavez from the inside. But why bother.

The activists had objected to the wise persons in the formal Danish organisations and thus had both them and all the 918 mass arrested in the December 12 demonstration broken a golden Danish rule, always trust a COP and their definition of what is violence. What the Danish left-wing might do is issuing individual press releases, but more cannot be expected. After all, heavy repression with targeted arrests of almost all spokespersons of a non violent civil disobedience action, is what one deserves if one have gone against the advice of all formal Danish left wing organizations and dared to unite with mass movements from all over the world in front of the nose of the hitherto monopoly actors in Danish radical solidarity work.

The organisers of the ALBA meeting had of course different possibilities of doing something. The organization that seems to have been most positive towards Reclaim power was a communist party still looking upon Stalin as an important ideologue.  Their capacity to mobilize many was limited both in terms of Danish support and any links to central international climate justice organizations. The Red Green Alliance had the opposite position and actually excellent possibilities both in Denmark and the rest of the world. They had the chance as a modern radical left-wing party and one of the few that at least for a while even had a proper agricultural programme strongly present in Summit protests since Amsterdam 1997 and in the global justice movement. They also played a central role in organizing of the December 12 demonstration, or at least one of their International Socialist members. On photos from the preparations for the ALBA meeting one can see Thomas Eisler from Red Green Alliance, member of the national board of the party and active in the Fourth international as well as European Social Forum last year.

Especially interesting it is that in 2002 the Red Green Alliance did a very good anti repression work from the early start of the preparations ot the EU Summit protests in December that year. Together with representatives from the Socialist People´s Party they acted as parliamentary shields when activists crossed the borders and at street actions constantly using the parliament as a tribune for the movement. The autonom or what also can be labelled libertarian leftist movement coming from the house occupation and anti fascists action networks used the opportunity for organizing a non-violent civil disobedience action at the Bella center. People dressed up in protective gear with some 700 supporters were able to push themselves into the Bella center area a little bit, a political statement was made and the political action dissolved without any escalation of violence. Thus the statements by formal Danish organizations that such a kind of non-violent action at a legislative assembly was impossible in Denmark without escalating into violence was false. It had been done before with a similar right wing government. and that time without governmental spokes persons inside welcoming the content and the form of the protest and full support from some global mass movements more than fully possible.

But not to the Danish formal left. It was not so that key organization did not know of the good experience from 2002. On the contrary. The organisation that arranged the action in 2002, Global Roots or Globale Rødder do not exist anymore. But many of the organisers of the action in 2002 are still politically very active. Quite a few are now employed at the parliamentary office of Red Green Alliance. Palle Dragsted, earlier international secretary of the party, now media secretary is one of them.

So how come than that the Red Green Alliance did not use the great opportunity to initiate broad protests together with many other Danish organizations and international networks on December 18 to free the climate prisoners and protest against mass arrests? The structural reason is simple. Since 2002 the party have drastically changed. Not on the surface but in the core of its way to act politically. In 2002 the party put a lot of energy including staff into be part of movement mobilisation. Now the same resources are instead put into media communication. Movements are interesting if they can deliver sound bites that the party can use occasionally in the parliament or in their press releases. It is not any longer of interest to be loyal to a movement and part of their daily struggle. Thus Red Green Alliance spokes persons can talk about in the media that it would be better if the police used the dialogue tactic which successfully was used to avoid escalation of repression in 2002, not to be self critical about the change of the way the party itself relates to movements in risk of getting repressed.

One of the actors in this change of the political culture of the Red Green Alliance are the organisers of the autonom non-violent action in 2002. Once they themselves were able to achieve a professional career in the party they seem to gladly abandon the solidarity character of the party that once helped them when they were movement activists and instead making the party more integrated to professional media and parliamentary arenas.

They are still able to mobilise. Many of the old global roots people have been behind the massive mobilisation against the deportation of the Iraqi refugees defending church asylum. But doing action during COP15 the old global roots activists saw as not useful as there were to many policemen to challenge. Rather contribute to such actions as Shut it down against the coal power plant in Copenhagen in September last year or actions after COP15 but not during was their mantra among them. They were quite a few, often male, half cynical, and always well informed about the latest thing to know for a radical belonging to a common culture in many different left wing organisations in Denmark. Interestingly this seems to include avoiding mobilisation against repression.

Thus what we see in Denmark is that all strands of the formally organised left wing are equally passive when it comes to strengthen the climate justice movement and the general struggle to protect democratic rights for everyone with the exception of individual activists in Klimax and Climate Collective and to some degree left wing youth organisations. Some of these youth organizations linked to political parties were as one could expect part of organising ad hoc protest at the Valby climate prison on December 12. But these left wing youth organisations were not organisers of the Valby hall mass meeting and seems in general be regarded by their parent parties as marginal youth phenomena not to be taken much seriously.

The different communist parties are mainly competing with each other. The trade unions whether social democratic or not are stretched between a perceived importance of good relationships with the government and the daily struggle against the further brutalisation of working conditions. They experience how their pickets against privatization of services are broken by the police with false promises of releasing an arrested picket leader. They criticized the hooligan law package as an attempt to repress all popular movements and non-violent actions, whether pickets, strikes or environmental protests and stated that they were expressions of a police state mentality. All social democratic and other trade unions in Copenhagen protested but the Social democrats seemed not impressed who supported the mass arrest of more than 900 innocent people to not talk about the government.

The Socialist People’s Party spokes person also supported the police and only after many protested withdraw the support somewhat for the police. The Red Green alliance with its two minority trotskyist fractions and a main stream that do not know what to do is at the moment not much of a party, more of a branding operation to support differing professional careers with the help of much volunteer work but little coherent strategy.

The autonom left is interestingly also very central in the lack of the support  against repression of the climate justice movement. The same kind of Danish mechanism that we saw in the case of the Communist party owning the daily Arbejderen and the construction workers union seems to be working also here although the arguments against direct action at Bella center are the opposite. We do not support the actions so we refuse also to protest against repression of the actions. The autonom left did to a great part avoid supporting action during COP15 due to an analysis based on the pragmatic idea that the police force was to strong to be able to win any substantial victory. As isolated in its Danish box as the rest of the left in Denmark to establish a discussion in solidarity with movements coming from abroad was uninteresting. To win a struggle in action was mainly seen in physical terms and numbers of participants, not political terms and ability to create new political horizons and alliances. Thus in their international contacts with their allies in other countries they put forward their scepticism including sharp criticism on how weakly CJA actions were prepared. Something they, with their sometimes longer experience, could have positively improved but chose not to. It was more interesting to be a clever observer than to intervene side by side with people from other countries coming and taking the risks these Danish autonom did not want to take. And as they did not support the actions they as many other Danish left wingers tend to avoid the immediate necessary strong anti repression response needed in December during COP15.

The result of the lack of leftwing support for mass mobilisation against repression of COP15 protests can be seen in such things as that Greenpeace activists in prison after a Gala dinner action get a very high degree of support and attention while the rest of the climate protesters get support to quite a large extent in falling degree due to if they have organisational backing or not. The massive mobilisation to support all repressed climate activists have lacked were it is needed most, in Denmark thanks to the lack of formal organisations supporting such a mass mobilisation.

Content

The COP15 promising ALBA mass meeting

The lost left wing opportunity

How the left supported the police against demonstrators in Copenhagen

Day by day reactions on repression December 12 to 18:

Saturday 12th of December – Come safely to peaceful demonstration

The left wing cover up

Sunday 13th of December – ”we were violently opposed”

Monday 14th of December – ”unfortunately too many arrests”

Tuesday 15th of December ”It does not belong in a democracy”

Wednesday 16th of December – “No soft feelings”

Thursday 17th of December – ”Eat breakfast with Morales”

Friday 18th of December – International networks demonstrate against Danish repression

Danish self-criticism

Why is the left promoting police perspectives?

Danish political claustrophobia

The way the Danish left assess Copenhagen

The paternalistic Red Green Alliance

Trotskyist climate heroes without guts

Non-parliamentary left: A Waterloo for activists, not a new Seattle

From anti neoliberal left to authoritarian state-media governance left

Other material:

12 December Initiative – huge success or background for branding?

Open letter on Denmark’s freedom and legal situation

The whole world on trial

The Fall of the Bella Wall: Power Reclaimed

Why is the left promoting police perspectives?

What is clear from Kund Vilby’s open letter and the support of the police from Social democrats is that the question is not repression of the mass demonstration but how to relate to all the protests and policing during COP15. This is of course in the mind of every left wing group or party with ambitions to change society or become government.

Consciously or unconsciously the Danish formal left wing organizations in their reactions on the repression of the December 12 demonstration had in mind the coming days during COP15 and especially the Reclaim power action which they all had opposed.


Attac the exception. Here Christophe Aguiton arguing at the police kettle at Amagerbrogade. Photo avenirclimat.info

All formal Danish voices from any kind of strands that had been raised with the exception of Attac in the last minute had claimed that the action was impossible in Denmark on moral grounds. The reason for this was that civil disobedience even if non-violent directed against a legislative assembly was of such a different nature than other civil disobedience against more acceptable goals to the public like shutting down a coal fire plant or organizing a picket to stop privatization of services. Attac changed their mind after that it became clear that in 2002 such an action had been successfully carried out during an EU-Summit at the Bella Center without escalating into violence.

There was also a second reason shared by many more including those that could see no hindrance in principle towards non-violent actions at legislative assemblies like the parliament, EU or UN summit. This reason was the fact that there was an additional reason to protect the Bella center compared to many other targets, a cause behind a police action. The politicians inside were known goals for terrorists and thus extraordinary ways was necessary to protect them. As one commentator summed it up in Politiken afterwards, the whole action was totally unacceptable as a murderer could hide among those pushing for coming inside.

The argument that terrorist attacks of this kind never have happened during summit protests is no reason for disclaiming this argument. The police are anyway in their full right legally and morally to act as if such a possibility could be a reality. That some arguing for the action at times were not aware of the seriousness did not make the situation easier. It had been stated once at a CJA preparatory meeting that there were no risks for getting shot by security guards as inside the Bella center were tens of thousands of delegates and so there were security measures in many layers before it would be possible to reach the persons that needed special protection.

This was of course partly true and an argument against the somewhat exaggerated opinion in Politiken against the action. On the other hand also naive. There were no reason to believe that the police or other security forces would regard reclaim power activists whether in a main bloc or separate affinity groups as the same as NGO delegates once they had overcome the first police barriers and further closer to the building at the entrance at the subway were the NGO delegates entered or elsewhere. On the other hand this was also an argument for that establishing a People’s Assembly inside the Bella center area which was in practice done at the EU Summit 2002 after pushing the police a bit did not pose a security threat to the well protected inside. There were not only many security barriers inside the building but also many barriers to overcome if the mass action had overcome the first police cordon.

There were at times an omnipotent language in the CJA preparations talking about disrupting the official conference for a whole day unspecified in what way by entering from outside and with the help of those inside making it unclear what the goal of the action was. To disrupt COP15 by establishing inside the Bella center area a People’s Assembly by the force of mass civil disobedience from the outside and with NGO and governmental delegates from the inside calling for a different agenda than the official. Or to disrupt the conference also physically inside the venue coming from the outside. Closer to the date for the action the goal to establish a People’s Assembly became more and more clearly expressed and both for this reason and that other goals were practically out of reach for the action arguments against Reclaim power became more and more invalid if taking into consideration the gap between the official arguments for the acute need for action on climate change and inability in the negotiations visible since many months or longer of that negotiations would fail.

What made the formal Danish organizations, many of them claiming to be system critical, anyway almost in unison totally reject the Reclaim power action in spite of the predictable failure of the conference and that the formal organizations claimed that another agenda was utterly important is of importance to find out. Are the Danish formal organizations less interested than they claim in a politics that can stop climate change? Are they seeing other more ideological goals as more important as the idea that all legislatives assemblies should for ever be excluded from any civil disobedience regardless of what decisions are made inside?

Another possibility is that the formal organizations do not trust people. Vilby may not be alone in his prior assessment that without leaders a mass non violent action may go out of hand. Is it out of question to take any risks for a formal Danish organisation were its leadership might need to answer on why they were so naive believing that people in common could be disciplined during a mass action were the police might provoke in different ways?

Police during the mass arrest of the December 12 march. Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kk/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The other option was to play safely and unite with main stream NGOs stating as a main message from the 12 December demonstration the by December illusionary wish for a real deal with a secondary main ideological message, trust the leaders. This secondary main message was in total opposition to the message from the reclaim power action.

Faced with this reality the most resourceful left wing actors makes the choice to support a view in favour of a police perspective on what happened at the demonstration 12 December. Furthermore is no collective response organized among formal Danish organizations against the police intervention by the left wing parties supporting the integrity of the demonstration. The first reaction among the left wing parties is to internalize the views of the police, even more actually than the police themselves. The story that the mass arrests took place after a policemen was hurt by a stone is made up by the media and the left wing parties, it is not in the official police statement explaining the reason for the action. The Danish organizations gets paralyzed by the fact that they have made a choice. They are against questioning the official summit by non violent disobedience and have all instead opted for a broad mass demonstration. Then they have to follow the line completely and use the same arguments against the integrity of the demonstration as they use against the reclaim power action. Demonstrators in any kind of manifestation are dangerous and we need to understand that the police must intervene as the risks are far higher than we can imagine. If they do not exist we must help by telling that the risks in anyway existed and thus the reason for the police to intervene was by all means understandable.

Citizens against activist violence demonstrating in the middle of the gathering of the demonstration.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/americagov/ / CC BY-SA 2.0

By internalizing a police definition on violence and reasons for intervening the formal Danish organizations becomes as integrated into the state as the main stream NGOs that chose to say no to participate in supporting a people’s climate forum in Copenhagen as they had all access to influencing the summit from inside the Bella center as accredited lobbyists. But the internalizing of the police definition of violence is more hidden. Those controlling system critical media are often strongly related to the same organizations that as in Denmark have chosen to support the police, at least in the decisive moment. There is much at stake for the formal organizations and thus they try as much as possible to act behind the scenes instead of openly.

But what happened in Copenhagen is historical also in the way that this time it became obvious how this internalization of the police interests is expressed and organized. The key argument against the Reclaim power action was that any kind of pushing a policemen at the Bella Center would immediately result in violence, and violence is if it is executed by the police or a demonstrator totally unacceptable. As the non-violent person pushing a policemen is the cause of this predictable violence this action must be totally rejected. There were more or less no objections to the political demands of the reclaim power action from organization demanding climate justice, only this that the violence that would occur due to an action at a legislative assembly was impossible to explain to members and the public and also to many morally unacceptable.

Tord Björk

Content

The COP15 promising ALBA mass meeting

The lost left wing opportunity

How the left supported the police against demonstrators in Copenhagen

Day by day reactions on repression December 12 to 18:

Saturday 12th of December – Come safely to peaceful demonstration

The left wing cover up

Sunday 13th of December – ”we were violently opposed”

Monday 14th of December – ”unfortunately too many arrests”

Tuesday 15th of December ”It does not belong in a democracy”

Wednesday 16th of December – “No soft feelings”

Thursday 17th of December – ”Eat breakfast with Morales”

Friday 18th of December – International networks demonstrate against Danish repression

Danish self-criticism

Why is the left promoting police perspectives?

Danish political claustrophobia

The way the Danish left assess Copenhagen

The paternalistic Red Green Alliance

Trotskyist climate heroes without guts

Non-parliamentary left: A Waterloo for activists, not a new Seattle

From anti neoliberal left to authoritarian state-media governance left

Other material:

12 December Initiative – huge success or background for branding?

Open letter on Denmark’s freedom and legal situation

The whole world on trial

The Fall of the Bella Wall: Power Reclaimed

From anti neoliberal left to authoritarian state-media governance left

What conclusions can than be drawn about the left after Copenhagen? One way is to avoid assessing what happened and opt for next summit or localized actions.

Johanne Schmidt-Nielsen speaking for the Red Green Alliance at the Bella center during the 12 December march. Meanwhile other members of her party issued press statements supporting a police perspective on the repression against the demonstration or claimed that the demonstration organizers are unwilling to respond to the state aggression. At the same time more than 900 participants in the demonstration are mass arrested and forced to the ground. The show must go on? Videoshot from Red Green Alliance climate campaign web site.

But what happened in Copenhagen is that a political process normally invisible or very hard to see became evident. Both inside and outside Bella center the Danish state and its allies did what they could to establish a new global governance system. The victories in the struggles against fascism by establishing at the formal level the UN built on recognition of indivisible human rights including both social and democratic should be wiped away. A formal arrangement built on the power relations of earlier class struggles and continued social forces among the working class and peasants in different parts of the world as well as anticolonialism and emancipation of women.

Police stop and soon violently use their batons to stop UN delegates from coming out from Bella Center to the People’s Assembly at the Reclaim Power action December 16.

Joshua Kahn at the front receiving the first hits. Photos:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/kk/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

What the Danish government did in Copenhagen was to use all its informal power to ignore the UN and instead establish a separate global system based on an alliance of big powers excluding any idea of equal sovereign nations and social rights for everyone as guaranteed by the UN declaration of human rights. Simultaneously was also the democratic rights also guaranteed by the UN abolished on the streets of Copenhagen, in practice randomly and arbitrary against anyone. It even went so far that UN accredited delegates were beaten by Danish police as they tried to reestablish the original goal of UN and the popular movements that had struggled for the social and democratic rights by joining a People’s Assembly with movements from all over the world coming from the outside.

Mikkel Warming and Socialist People´s Party reprsentative acting as parliamentary shields to protects the right of protesters when crossing the border to Denamrk from Sweden at the EU Summit in 2002. Warming is today undermayor in Copenhagen for the Red Green Alliance. Photo Tord Björk

Demonstration marching towards Bella Center 2002

Confronting the police at Bella Center 2002

Black bloc in the main demonstration 2002

Front banner at main demonstration 2002 with Socialist People´s Party Youth van backing up.

Seven years ago in Copenhagen both the Socialist People´s Party and the Red Green Alliance were out on the streets protecting the human rights. People in the Anti Fascist Action together with others initiated a civil disobedience action at the Bella center with political success. The head of the police stated when media wanted to raise expectations for violence manifested by groups like AFA being involved that the experience of the police was that an agreement with AFA was trustable. The strong involvement of the parliamentary parties against repression and the tactic of the police to avoid escalation worked quite well to protect democratic rights. The militant activists had a similar political agenda or at least not contradictory as the left wing parties and the EU-critical movements in what was labelled the global justice movement.

Since then social unrest is growing in Europe while the social gaps are increasing. The militant groups have split and today few would be capable or interested in making agreements with the police or for that matter sometimes other groups. The police has in Copenhagen more clear than in any other case in Western Europe been given free hands to abolish freedom of expression which is the basis of democracy. On social issues the trade unions are more and more on the defensive as well as most social forces in society. Neoliberalism have failed ideologically but is as strong as ever in practice. A common agenda against social injustice is not existing on social or environmental issues. Instead the left and NGOs are united on the issue of changing interstate relations between the North and the South on trade, debt etc. That the environmental and peasant movements tries to formulate a social revolutionary vision for the struggle demanding more power to the direct producer and challenging consumerism goes unnoticed by both the left and the trade unions, at least in the North.

Photo Avenirclima.info

All these are factors of importance. But the most drastic change that has been taken place is the changed role of NGOs and the left wing parties. The NGOs chose to completely become part of the government by refusing to take part in organizing an alternative summit, the Klimaforum. The left wing parties did the same by refusing to collectively act against repression as they have the duty to do as organisers of the December 12 demonstration.

In its assessment of COP15 the leader of the Socialist People’s Party Villy Søvndal comes to the conclusion that the former right wing prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, now general secretary of NATO, would have done a much better job chairing the Climate Summit than his successor Løkke. This is also the opinion of most Danes according to the opinion polls. In an analysis of this opinion the liberal paper Politiken comes to the conclusion that it is false. It was Fogh that in the first place made a Danish foreign policy doctrine out of the idea to always tie Denmark more closer to the US than any other country or the EU. But the world map today makes this doctrine unrealistic according to Politiken and was the reason why Denmark failed as G77 or its most strongest powers do not accept a process totally in the interest of the US anymore. But for the Socialist People’s Party leader it is a stronger right wing minister that is the solution for how Denmark could have done it better, as the opinion polls says so.

The drastic change among the left wing parties is their stronger integration in the media arena. The Socialist People’s Party becomes popular by being strong on law and order and anything that the media finds important. The Red Green Alliance have followed suit and upgraded its adoption of media values and staff while movement values and contacts have been down graded. Both parties ends by internalizing the police view on violence.

Reclaim Power action december 16. Photo:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/kk/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

What we see emerging instead of two anti neoliberal parties opposing repression is an elitist media and state oriented left integrated in a authoritarian governance model. In this model movements do not count, maybe they can send signals to the politicians if they by chance avoid getting arrested. The social democratic and all other trade unions in Copenhagen protested against the hooligan law as a threat not only to climate activists but also to trade unions. This is of no concern for the Social democrats that supports the police when it is used in full scale during the summit. Why bother about what movements say when it is the parliamentary parties that have the privileged access to media and state subsidies?

But in the long run the way to conflate any kind of violent or non-violent action, spokes persons and people actually acting, innocent and maybe, maybe but not necessary guilty persons into equally arbitrary objects for repression is not very sustainable. When all NGOs and the parliamentary parties have left other arenas than media and governmental power there is none left to be among the people but movements. This kind of authoritarian rule might be possible for some time but is too costly in the long run.

Police at Reclaim Power action December 16. Photo:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/kk/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

It is also sometimes to visible as during the Climate summit. The simple question to ask the left wing parties and all formal Danish organizations involved in the responsibility of inviting people to mass activities during COP15: We need an explanation and a democratic decision in consensus or if necessary a majority decision of how you refused to answer collectively on the Danish state and its degrading treatment of almost 2 000 people. After all it was not only a domestic problem but of importance for all humanity and may if Danish organisations do not react collectively spread also to other countries. Danish organisations are accountable to people from other countries that went to Copenhagen as we live on the same planet as well as towards all Danes that were badly treated and the future of democracy.

Tord Björk

Content

The COP15 promising ALBA mass meeting

The lost left wing opportunity

How the left supported the police against demonstrators in Copenhagen

Day by day reactions on repression December 12 to 18:

Saturday 12th of December – Come safely to peaceful demonstration

The left wing cover up

Sunday 13th of December – ”we were violently opposed”

Monday 14th of December – ”unfortunately too many arrests”

Tuesday 15th of December ”It does not belong in a democracy”

Wednesday 16th of December – “No soft feelings”

Thursday 17th of December – ”Eat breakfast with Morales”

Friday 18th of December – International networks demonstrate against Danish repression

Danish self-criticism

Why is the left promoting police perspectives?

Danish political claustrophobia

The way the Danish left assess Copenhagen

The paternalistic Red Green Alliance

Trotskyist climate heroes without guts

Non-parliamentary left: A Waterloo for activists, not a new Seattle

From anti neoliberal left to authoritarian state-media governance left

Other material:

12 December Initiative – huge success or background for branding?

Open letter on Denmark’s freedom and legal situation

The whole world on trial

The Fall of the Bella Wall: Power Reclaimed

The Fall of the Bella Wall: Power Reclaimed

The invisible wall in our minds was going to fall. The wall between between the unprivileged and privileged humans must fall. Together with the wall between humankind and the larger living world they all fell on the 16th of December 2009. The wall of beautiful power, the Bella wall, came crumbling down when the people decided to lead towards a People’s Assembly at the Bella center of the World. The leaders of networks and organizations had to follow. Heads of states and the so called world leaders have to follow. Climate Justice is the cause. System change – not climate change the idea of how to achieve the goal. The People’s Assembly the goal and the starting point to tear down the wall between people and power liberating in one act both people inside and outside the parliamentary assemblies reuniting our bodies with our heads, and people with nature.

Reaching Tårnby square from the back it seemed already full of police attempting at arresting everybody. Photos by Tord Björk Creative Commons in this post unless otherwise stated.

We  started at Tårnby railway station in cold windy winter weather. I had locals guiding me on bike so we easily could move quick wherever we wanted strolling along the Bella center fences before we finally reached the place where the blue block were suppose to gather.

FoE Sweden activist in the midst of the wind and the crowd at Tårnby square

Classical finger tactics were supposed to be used. The idea behind this is to allow for some diversity of tactics so people can choose what degree of confrontation they like to be part of. As the whole Reclaim power action had agreed to strict non-violence code of conduct including not responding to violence from the police the room for diversity of tactics was quite small. As the Danish police had shown that it was prepared to use the new laws against peaceful non-violent protests arbitrary far beyond what can be sustained if the state wants to maintain order and democracy in the long run it was quite clear that the whole Reclaim power mass action could end in complete failure.

Map of Southern and Central Copenhagen with Tårnby at the exclamation on a red triangle at the bottom. The blue bloc was supposed to march via the yellow road to the North and then take a bend to the left to end at the gate of the Bella center, here marked as a volcano. Here people from the inside together with people pushing from the outside should create a space for a People’s Assembly for climate justice. After the Assembly a march could go back to the inner city on the West side of the Amager Fælled, the Amager Commons. Örestad, the gathering point for the green bloc is situated at the railway and motorway straight South of Bella Center.

The Blue block had applied and received a permit to march towards the Bella Center from Tårnby square, the green bloc were suppose to converge at Örestad railway station and then find their way to the same goal. Smaller affinity groups would find their own way. Our goal was to organize a People’s Assembly by somehow get into the Bella center area or at least after pushing as much as possible make the assembly at the fence together with people coming from the inside walking out.

Peasants from all over the world organized in La Via Campesina

The political core of the action was global mass movements with many representatives from the third world. In the last call-out for the Reclaim Power action it is stated: “The assembly will give a voice to those who are not being heard, it will be an opportunity to change the agenda, to discuss the real solutions, to send a clear message to the world calling for climate justice.”

People gathering at Tårnby under Jubilee South and Via Campesina flags

Originally there had been a bigger emphasis on voices from the third world. In the minutes from the Climate Justice Action meeting in June 2009 were the Reclaim Power action was decided it is stated about December 16: “On this day, the regular summit programme would be impossible. It would be the hour of the movements from below, who would speak for themselves and  decide the agenda. In particular, the voices of those affected by climate change from the Global South would have a forum.”

A very young disciplined Latin European bloc at the end ready to march at Tårnby in as good mood as everyone else.

The change from focus on being supporters particularly for voices from the South to only speak in general terms of all voices who have not been heard was a good move. Unprivileged people are everywhere and certainly among the many young activists that formed the back bone of the Reclaim Power action. The representatives from third world countries made the action strongly legitimate being able to manifest the interest of billions of people all over the world.

The mood was very good. The cause was rightful. The participants well prepared and willing to interact with whoever turned up. Everywhere there was a smile to find, a laughter to get, people willing to make humor married to politics so even the police could not resist from getting influenced.

To annoy us lobbyists for profitable climate solutions entered the scene making propaganda for the only realistic solutions.

Obviously they had a nice time in elegant white clothes, cocktails glasses in their hands, grapes to eat and posters like messages in a silent movie presenting the solutions to the world, Africa stop whining! Bangladesh buy rubber boots! or more to the point: STOP GLOBAL WHINING! But global wine drinking for all the rich is of course not to be stopped, on the contrary it is to be supported as we all know that when some get rich also some drops of wealth also will also drop on the impoverished, oh I am sorry, the poor. There is no end to the creativity of the rich and powerful entrepreneurs. They can at the same time both make all inventions necessary and write all soundbites necessary that makes the mass media happy. The act was so convincing from the beginning that some demonstrators thought it was for real.

But there is plenty of room for creativity also for everybody else in the march. Many cannot hold on to themselves and start singing. Especially British activists get more and more spirited with the help of an excellent vocalist giving us all the tune.

POWER TO THE PEOPLE – PEOPLE GOT THE POWER! The song and slogans gets us all in a better and better mood waiting for starting to move.

It is as all climate camp activists are with us from all over the world. Nothing can stop us now!

Are we ready to march? Yes we are ready to march! For Justice to fishermen (the blue banner), peasants (green Via Campesina flags), workers and everyone. For real solutions to the climate crisis and not false solutions like Nuclear power or a global market for carbon trading promoting land grabbing at the expense of sustainable food production by family farmers.

And of we go! Time to move towards the Bella center. According to Indymedia we were 500 at the Tårnby square. To me it looked as we were somewhat more.

The Reclaim Power March to the Bella Center

Along the road there were street lamps possible to climb. Well your feet will hurt a bit but you get another view. Using my bike I could go ahead and get a view from above. What will follow is an impression of the whole blue block on the way to Bella Center.

The march is surrounded by police walking, to the left also a whole row of police vans. Everywhere also police in plain clothes. Quite often easy to identify from there sturdy shoes, all the same, their branded black block look alike clothes and their standard Palestine scarfs. For a more systematic report on undercover police operations and surveillance at COP15, see: http://indymedia.dk/articles/1983

No one is illegal anti racists and precarious united banners in the march. No borders actions to address the issue of climate and any refugees received attention on the 14th of December action.

The demo van in the end of the blue bloc

The police with the full support of the government have been attacking the Reclaim power action by many different means. Mass lodging had been raided at several occasions starting more than a week in advance. CJA spoke persons of any kind have had up to six civilian police following them from the foot step their home to were they were going. More than 900 people were mass arrested, hand cuffed and abused with degrading treatment sitting on the street for hours with many forced to pee in their pants resulting in finally three people getting accused for something. Most were put in cages in a special “climate prison” were the unbroken spirit of the demonstrators made the police attacking the imprisoned with pepper spray to maintain total control. A massive police action against innocent protesters with the full support not only from the right-wing government but also in practice by the social democrats and socialist people’s party stating that their opposition to the new laws making this possible was not necessarily on principle and once they were used arbitrarily leading politicians from both parties showed a strong defense of the police as their primary task. It could not be stated more clearly, the police can do whatever they want and the organized Denmark will support them.

Our climate is not your business banner ready to continue the march. This message was one of the messages among protesters in Copenhagen that received attention by a whole day of action on the 11th of December heavily repressed by the police.

Apart from arbitrary mass arrests and degrading treatment to scare people from participating targeted actions against anyone that appeared to be coordinator of the action was also used as a means to further create disorder. This tactic to destroy the leadership of a movement was once used centuries ago before democratic development paved the way for the understanding that arresting the leaders for things they had not done but what was perceived as that the movement might do was an old fashion contra-productive way of handling social unrest and needed to be modernized. Thus it became committed acts of violence or explicit support of violent acts that was criminalized and not general support of revolution or leadership of a movement were someone might do something criminal that became the rule.

But not so in Denmark 2009. Here Tadzio Müller on the eve of the Reclaim Power action was arrested on no grounds what so ever. This was an arrest on fake grounds and he will not be sentenced in any normally working European court of justice. The Reclaim power action have been non-violent in its code of conduct from the very beginning and so has Tadzio Müller presented it. The arrest was once more a way to show that the Danish state with almost full parliamentary support was willing to do anything to intimidate, criminalize and oppress a regularly non-violent civil disobedience action and even normal demonstrations. The organized Denmark acted almost in unison as if thousands of participants in the Systems Change not Climate Change bloc in the December 12 demonstration and the Reclaim Power action were part of militaristically planned operations in need to be met by similar militaristic means while still maintaining a democratic face to the world. Targeted and mass arrests to scare people but still  letting those who did not want to adjust their moral to the rules of the Danish state and were willing to take risks to save the planet march under constant insecurity.

Especially risky for the Danish state was the presence of people from the third world in the march. As Denmark in the official negotiations have systematically avoided to listen to the impoverished nations and instead used its privileged power to make UN a power game for the rich and powerful it would be utterly dangerous to also on the streets attack the interest of the global majority. Thus were people from the third world released immediately after they were identified during the mass arrest at the demonstration 12th of December. At least this was the case of all third world people in a delegation were 40 people were for a longer time arrested with the exception of those from Lebanon and Corea. It may well be so that what safe guarded the Reclaim Power action were the participants from mass movements in the South. And as the march was allowed the van with loudspeakers was also a symbol of acceptance of democratic rights.

But for the rest the police constantly attacked everything else that could be seen as possible coordination following the militaristic logic which the government had approved. Nicolas Haeringer, one more of CJA spokes persons was suddenly attacked when marching by civilians not presenting themselves turning out to be policemen.

Small groups of well equipped and coordinated policemen could attack and take out whatever they wanted from the demonstration. Here above you can see them in happy mood after violently beating Nicolas to the ground and then arresting him as their successful goal was attained.

Meanwhile the green bloc was also arrested at the Örestad meeting point en masse.

Some were able to escape and made it to the Reclaim Power action at the Bella center.

Meanwhile the blue bloc had to make it and establish a People’s Assembly. Contrary to the militaristic thinking of the police the Reclaim power action functions differently. All the way to the Bella center we are chanting, what do we want – climate justice, how do we act – non-violence. The van in the back of the march repeats the messages and we follow suit. For the first time in many decades I also here from the van and people responding, we are disciplined, we are non-violent the whole code of conduct of non-violence against the police is not only soemthing written on a piece of paper, it is embedded in our bodies while we walk and talk, or rather dancing and singing our way to the Bella center.

May I take a photo and put it on my blog? Yes of course! An activist from the Italian large environmental movement Lega Ambiente is happily with many of here friends carrying a No nuke banner in the Reclaim power action to make her and their statement at Bella center.

The first time I encountered this profound way of collective discipline, joyful and knowledgeable cooperation in a mass of politically motivated people were at Järntorget in Gothenburg 2001. 800 riot policemen surrounded 500 people who were protesting at the violent behaviour of the police during three days at an EU-Summit. After many proactive mass arrests and violent attacks at demonstrations triggering riots the police shot one demonstrator whose life at the time of the protest still was in danger. Now when the EU Summit was over the police could use its full force and so it did. With the riot shields were the demonstrators pushed into a small spot and completely surrounded. The mass arrest of everyone was supposed to begin, at least for six hours detention in a special EU prison set up for the Summit with cages.

But it took time to implement the arrests. Policemen dressed up as black bloc went around outside the police cordon and tried to identify people and then the police tried to ran into the mass and grab someone. This was not popular and people stuck to each other. The proposal to leave voluntarily making it easier for the police to arrest the rest was met with the same stubbornness, here it was the time to stick together. Thus slowly  the police were able to bring out people one by one now stating that everyone still there should be arrested.

Meanwhile the chanting of slogans, singing and political teachings started. As the mass was big the way to repeat what was said was used, the same method that now was used in the reclaim power  march. The right to protest was underlined. All the songs one could think of from the International to We shall overcome and most popular Swedish children songs was sung with enthusiasm making people in a good mood. My task was to be a negotiator. Peeing was a problem. Soon some handful needed to pee so I went to the police. After a while it was possible to get contact with one of them. It was obvious that it was a problem none had thought of and that the police wanted to take a solution into consideration. He asked how many it was and I turned around asking how many needed to pee, hans up! Almost the whole square raised their hands and seemed to need to immediately go to the toilet. I could not but laugh and so we all did, the protesters and the police. The solution was than that people went to the side of the square at the building and made what they needed to in the open air.

While the police as gently as possible arrested people one by one the mass meeting continued in a better and better mood. As the demonstrations had demanded that the public sector and nature should not be commodified protection of public service was one of the political themes discussed. We came to the conclusion that there has to be better wages for the employed in the public sector, and soon the logics of the argument ened in the demand Better wages for the police! By now the barriers between the police and the demonstrators after many hours together started to brake down. Policemen were seen giving their bananas to the encircled mass of protesters. Finally after almost five hours the police in charge sent a message to the central command stating that he could see no law paragraph that allowed him to continue forcing people from leaving. If there were no answer in three minutes he would give order to the riot police to go away. There were no answer and so he left with 800 hundred policemen and two hundred or more protesters had a party.

Now the feeling was the same of commitment, humor and communication with everyone willing to listen. The predominantly very young activists were walking and talking, chanting and singing their way to Bella center. The van filled in and addressed the police, we know it, the chant went, but we seldom say it, you sexy, you sexy beneath that uniform, the message was clear to take of the uniform.

To get the march working there are lots of functions necessary. The music made by the drums gives energy to everybody and a meaningful task to many using the sticks in a rythm we all like. The clowns are a constant reminder of another world walking behind, in front or anywhere repeating the body language of the policemen until not even the police can resist and must smile or even laugh. The animals are many. Any kind of animal, polar bears, leopards, elephants, you name it. In general quite a few demonstrators hare small wonders of joyful dramatic acts. Top hats, rainbow caps, Inka caps, anything on top of your head. And banners of any kind and any color.

Another important function are the medics team and the legal team. The medics you can spot by their black cross with appropriate backpack. Alternative media is everywhere so the message does not get distorted, corporate media as media often is labeled among activists are also well represented. The large amount of media can one also suspect means that there are many policemen using media as a disguise for registering participants. After corporate mass media makes it a scandal that one of the plain clothes policemen had been wearing a DR jacket only to be used by the Danish public service TV. This recieves in main strem medie almost as much attention as the coverage of the whole Reclaim power action. But of course also many of the more anonymous media attention could have been policemen at work.

Communication is another function of importance, a function that the police on purpose tried to destroy as much as possible by arresting targeted person in advance and during the march to make as much harm as possible to the action as well as the capability to give messages to the press. The attempt works according to a militaristic principle to constantly separate the enemy scaring the supposed rank and file participant from doing any confrontational act and diminishing the capacity of the leadership to communicate at all accept for the van were communication can be heard of everyone and is necessary to maintain an image of still existing democratic rights.

Communication is still a task necessary for a march to be able to have some knowledge what the rest of the action is doing and in this case also what is going on inside the Bella center. When it comes to mass civil disobedience the mistake by the police is to believe that this is lead by someone and when the leadership disappears than the civil disobedience disappears as well. The kind of horizontal mass education and unification by means of consensus decisions before and chanting during the protest makes it very hard to penetrate and weakening an action by taking away the leadership, only brutal force is fit for that and this is maybe also the idea behind much of the police tactics supported by the politicians in Denmark. Non-violent protests should be treated as if it actually is directly violent and those stating themselves willing to use non-violence should know that they will be treated as if they are inherently violent and can be beaten and criminalized for whatever they think of doing if they oppose the government and its laws.

One of the groups strongly present at all actions and demonstrations in Copenhagen were Robin Wood from Germany. This organizations regularly carries out civil disobedience in the protection of rain forests or the climate. They had their share of people getting hand cuffed and arrested in Copenhagen as one can see on their well illustrated blog with reports from the very start of COP15 to the end. Here they are making their statement: Shopping center vegetables = Climate killers. because of this: Luxury for everyone – bio (ecological food) for all!

And here they are in the Reclaim power march approaching Bella Center stating leave it in the ground! No more new open pit mining. More pictures and reports in German you find at their blog: http://www.robinwood.de/blog

To totally wipe out the possibility for non-violent civil disobedience would mean to say goodbye to anything but secret violent resistance and goodbye to more than a hundred year of establishing democracy with civil disobedience as a main tool. Thus it was necessary to allow the Reclaim power march under the threat of immediate arrest of everyone with the most random excuse. But the capacity to communicate should be wiped out by arrests on fake grounds.

System change not climate change banner from the not so well funded network Climate Justice now with Bella Center visible to us all at the horizon.

But similar to the capacity for mass civil disobedience the capacity is there for filling the ranks of special functions. In general the kind of flat organizational structure which is characteristic for both networks organizing the action, Climate Justice Action and Climate Justice Now means there is very few involved in any central coordination. Normally this would mean that by taking some people out the whole coordinating capacity would be paralyzed. But what happens instead is that new coordination functions are established on the spot. I have seen it working in Geneva once at an international anti WTO demonstration. All the locals had left us alone to take part in another demonstration organized by Swiss organizations and there we were without knowing where to go or what to do. Somehow order in the demonstration had to be established by stopping one person from doing unnecessary things while others made us find the way. The problem is of course that by drastically taking away leadership as the Danish police systematically did more disorder can follow rather than their possible aim to maintain order.

Stop consumer terror banner very few steps from the main Bella center entrance.

It can of course result in a split among the participants causing some to make more confrontative action while others gets passive, which might be seen as the exact strategy of the Danish government. When they argued that the new law package was directed against violence when in fact according to the Danish ministry of justice it was only directed against acts of non-violent behavior the government showed the way. Create total confusion to enable a situation were any act of non-violent civil disobedience immediately is regarded as violent and thus give the police free hands to use military tactics to create constant split among protesters. What was the final purpose of this governmental strategy? To stop any social unrest in Denmark from becoming better organized also in the future as all the trade unions in Copenhagen have stated. The new law package is directed against us, against picketing, strikes or any kind of civil disobedience that have brought us democracy. The trade unions accused the government for wanting to establish a police state. Should they succeed?

Automatic metro public transport passing above the demonstrators, a means of transport many climate justice movements asks for besides bicycles.

The other strategy might have been to avoid by all means that Denmark could be seen as having the same strategy on the streets as inside the negotiations to silence all unwanted voices. To make it appear as the only voices inside that really opposed the deal that rich countries including the merging powers in the South were about to make were very small and marginal has been crucial to the strategy of Denmark. I made a mistake in my pre-assessment of repression during the summit that Denmark would avoid repression of UN delegates walking out of Bella center. Such a repression would be a great obstacle for the future of the UN. At stake was a long tradition of the image of Nordic countries supporting the voices of impoverished countries and protecting the environment in the self interest of maintaining the UN as a legal way to strengthen small nations in world politics. But maybe the Danish agenda was different. Maybe it was to maintain a media image of being democratic by allowing protests under constant repression presented as the only way to avoid violence on the street while at the same time repressing the impoverished nations inside and de facto establish a new world order without any UN there to protect the rights of every nation. In such a case a People’s Assembly would be an extreme threat to the wishes of Denmark to completely handicap the UN and the impoverished countries. The media image of isolated marginal and obstructive countries would be impossible to effectively be maintained when people from the inside were going to meet people from the outside representing mass movements from all over the world. Whatever the Danish arguments were against a People’s assembly- should they succeed stopping it, one way or another?

No nuke protesters arriving at the spot where the attempts for pushing for climate justice and establishing a People´s Assembly soon will be made. The anti nuclear activists supported by more than 800 organizations also made strong actions throughout COP15 demanding that nuclear power should not be included in any climate agreement.

These were questions to ask on our way to Bella Center. But we also had to get there by knowing wich direction to go. The march was saved by the police when it came to the crossing were it was supposed to bend to the left without knowing what to do. But soon communication was established between the front and the van as well as with the walk out action inside the Bella Center. We were approaching the main gates were we at 12 should start the Peoples Assembly by pushing from the outside and meeting those coming from the inside.

Reclaim power and push for climate justice from the inside

Inside Bella center Reclaim power action. Photo with restricted copyright, www.vanwaardenphoto.com

The participation from the inside became massive. With banners stating Reclaim power and chanting a hundreds of people with many of the leaders of the global movements participating started the walk out. The indigenous in the front as during the mass demonstration on December 12. It was the same inside as outside with lively chants keeping the collective together while the blue block advanced towards the main gates (From Democracy Now report):

The chant began with Josh Kahn Russell making the announcement.

    JOSHUA KAHN RUSSELL: When I say “climate,” you say “justice”! Climate!

    PROTESTERS: Justice!

    JOSHUA KAHN RUSSELL: Climate!

    PROTESTERS: Justice!

    JOSHUA KAHN RUSSELL: When I say “reclaim,” you say “power”! Reclaim!

    PROTESTERS: Power!

    JOSHUA KAHN RUSSELL: Reclaim!

    PROTESTERS: Power!

    JOSHUA KAHN RUSSELL: When I say “take back,” you say “the talks”! Take back!

    PROTESTERS: The talks!

    JOSHUA KAHN RUSSELL: Take back!

    PROTESTERS: The talks!

    JOSHUA KAHN RUSSELL: When I say “climate,” you say “justice”! Climate!

    PROTESTERS: Justice!

    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?

Photo with restricted copyright, http://avenirclimat.info

Here the insider protesters with Tom Goldtoth from Indigenous Environmental network behind the drummer and Ricardo Navarro to the right from Friends of the Earth El Salvador (with a badge from another organization).

Photo with restricted copyright, http://avenirclimat.info

Here were Henry Saragi, general sectretary of La Via Campesina International to the right, a mass movement with 200 million members.

Photo with restricted copyright, http://avenirclimat.info

Here were Wahu Kaara from Kenya Debt Relief Network, representing the international alliance of People’s movement on Climate Change.

Photo with restricted copyright, http://avenirclimat.info

And many others but not Friends of the Earth International who had chosen to stage their own protest against being thrown out of the Bella center. Instead of supporting their claimed main cooperation partner Via Campesina who participated fully both in the inside and on the outside. FOEI chosed to stand aside and make their own sit in to protest against the treatment of themselves and some few other NGOs temporarily stopped from coming inside.

The Reclaim Power march from the inside became powerful with a lot of commitment, chanting and music.

Meanwhile the blue bloc came closer and closer to the main gates of the Bella center and were soon to be seen some 200 meters away by the bloc with yellow UN badges of walk out people from the inside. The question is what should happen?

Survival Media’s photostream at Flickr web site

The walk out bloc moved towards the fence from the inside. The police had told them not to in spite of that the situation was totally under control and the bridge over some muddy water were the inside Reclaim power could come out in the right direction was very narrow an allowed only a few to come across at the time. Thus it would have been easy to arrange so that few people at a time in good order could join the march on the outside.

Photo with restricted copyright, www.vanwaardenphoto.com

The walk out bloc advanced when the police started to beat the UN accredited delegates violently. I must admit that this I thought never would be possible. That the host country of a UN conference beats up masses of UN accredited persons to stop them from walking out to attend a People’s Assembly.

Photo with restricted copyright, www.vanwaardenphoto.com

On that bridge only 20 meters close to the people outside history was made. For each beating of danish sticks a grave was dug for the future of governments from small nations to have a say in world politics. Only the people in these nations allied across boundaries with people in other nations can now save the small countries from disappearing as a voice in international affairs.

For a full length commented video coverage of this action, see: http://www.democracynow.org/2009/12/16/police_tear_gas_beat_back_protesters

The outside push for climate justice

Meanwhile the lack of communication in the blue block caused some confusion. The march went to far and a group that was not supposed to come in front of the fence was suddenly facing the need for making a push which they were willing to but others as well. Some people from the front had to make their way through to some to the spot were the push for climate justice should start. But things were sorted out quite quickly it seemed. The number of participants was all the time limited and in general the whole code of conduct was such that any serious attempt of entering the Bella Center area more than symbolically for some meters and together with people from the inside there establish a Peoples Assembly had always been the only possible option. And so it was now with the second option to arrange a People’s Assembly and the Bella center fences on the outside.

Photo from Climate Justice Action website, Logan Dogan

The police started to kettle the demonstration coming with a row of sturdy police vans from the East. Order to go away in the name of the Queen was issued three times each in different languages. Loud and clear. Old mistakes on this point by the Danish police causing chaos should not be repeated.

Photo from Climate Justice Action website, Logan Dogan

The police advanced slowly. People were getting prepared.

Medic teams stayed closed to take care of people if necessary. Here everyone was necessary. People willing to push, people willing to be there, people prepared with treatment against the panic that easily took the grip of anyone getting pepper spray in her or his eyes, clowns making everybody happy and maybe even those who mainly were observers as myself trying to maybe do the best we could.

People were mainly young but there were also elderly. The situation became more and more tense.

In front of the police vans a barricade of bicycles was made to protect the van belonging to the demonstrators. The van was seen as crucial to maintain togetherness among the participants.

A first attempt at pushing towards the fence was made.

The police in action. Photo from Indymedia

The van was soon lost and two more CJA spokespersons arrested. People continued to push. In Swedish activist discussion forum, socialism.nu,  there has been some criticism of the unrealistic way the whole action was planned and how the continued attempts at pushing caused harm to many. In the front were some 30 people pepper sprayed making their eyes burning and 10 people got injured according to Indymedia reports. One activist were able to climb on top of a police van but was beaten to the ground by the police.

Many people have problems or get treated for getting pepper spray in the eyes while others are prepared for action with goggles.

People that were pepper sprayed by the police got helped by the medics to ease the intense buring feeling that easily causes panic.

Mass arrests started. In total some 250 people were arrested during the Reclaim power action.

The black and white photos above are from http://1000.blogsport.de/2009/12/17/images-from-copenhagen-4

Photos and report from Indymedia, http://indymedia.dk/articles/1880

Also other made attempts and some actually succeeded. A raft was constructed and people advanced across a dike. Here they were pepper sprayed and met by a dog but made it anyway to the other side thus entering the Bella center area. The People’s Assembly had managed to establish a bridge head inside at least symbolically. The people were very quickly arrested.

Seven young farmers also made an attempt according to a report made by the representative from Via Campesina at the Post-COP15 session at the Klimaforum. In line with the slogan of the young movement, Reclaim the fields, the golf course directly close to  the Bella Center was occupied to enable further advancing towards The Bella center area. Police dogs were quickly  chasing the young farmers who escaped in a tree until they were caught by the police.

Later in the evening six activists was once more able to enter the Bella center area by sneaking through the main entrance but quickly taken them as well.

The affinity group tactics made at least one symbolic victory but in general it failed. What was left after that both the affinity groups and the walk out bloc had not succeeded to establish any significant people’s Assembly inside the Bella center area was the blue bloc outside. The only remaining mass force in the action able of doing something.

But this group was heavily surrounded by police. From the North police vans came closer with riot police advancing in military style behind each van kettling the mass action completely from the North and the East. To the South was the well protected Bella center area. When no stones were in sight the police came forward and advanced in chains chasing people in front of them. Far to the West one could see police vans also approaching. The only escape now seemed to be through the marsh probably getting once feet wet.

The push for climate justice from the outside and the inside at the main gate seemed to have failed and the remaining forces trapped alone outside.

For very many pictures from the confrontations outside and some inside, see: http://www.gipfelsoli.org/Home/Copenhagen_2009/COP15_2009_Pictures/8069.html and: http://www.gipfelsoli.org/Home/Copenhagen_2009/COP15_2009_Pictures/8073.html

Renewed support from the inside

The police continued to push the masses away from the main gate into what still looked like a kettle operation enabling the police to arrest everyone at any moment.

I could not come out anymore but let myself to go aside on an isolated island in the midst of the kettled area.

Here one could see behind us three gigantic statues as witnesses with the Copenhagen coal power plant run by the Swedish state owned Vattenfall in the back ground.

Someone waved his rain bow peace flag facing Bella Center.

On top of a construction on the island others put a huge banner with a democracy arrow pointing at one direction and a Copenhagen arrow pointing at the other direction.

At the same time inside the Bella Center there came renewed support for the protesters outside and this time not possible to silence. From the main speakers tribune in the general plenary of the COP15 negotiations president Evo Morales and Hugo Chavez addressed the protesters and messages on the streets. The inside – outside action for climate justice was still there, highly present at the moment and for the future.

Hugo Chavez speaking to the Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen. Photo from Telesur.

In his statement he made it clear:

“There are many people outside… I’ve read in the news that there were some arrests, some intense protests there in the streets of Copenhagen, and I salute all those people out there, the majority of them youth… They are young people concerned for the world’s future,”

and furthermore:

“I have been reading some of the slogans painted in the streets… One said, ‘Don’t Change the Climate, Change the System!’ And I bring that on board for us. Let’s not change the climate. Let’s change the system! And as a consequence, we will begin to save the planet. Capitalism is a destructive development model that is putting an end to life, that threatens to put a definitive end to the human species.”

The complete speech you find here: http://links.org.au/node/1413

Evo Morales equally addressed the voices of protests outside in the general assembly at COP15. Yoiu can read an interview by Democracy Now with him here about his position, “policies of unlimited industrialization are what destroys the environment.”: http://links.org.au/node/1416

Miguel Palacin, chairman of the Andean coordination of indigenous people protesting at the Reclaim power action just before leaving for the airport. He is standing in front police vans and actvists at the Bella center were Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales were speaking on behalf of the Andean and Carribean people in the ALBA alliance.

After a while the police also cleansed the island where I had been standing for a while. I managed to get out. Here I met people being arrested.

Once more I could see the spontaneous disciplined organization at work. Or rather the verb organize rather than organization working. Immediately when the arrested boy came towards the police van someone approached him and asked about his name and the causes for his arrest.

Afterwards I saw the women talking to someone in the legal team. I asked her if she was a member of the legal team herself. She was not. But it was easy she said. Anyone could do it. It was just to ask for basic information if someone got arrested so none would be taken unnoticed and all should feel that their voice is getting heard. Horizontal, spontaneous and specialized functions in action. Needless to say food for the actvists all over Copenhagen was organized the same way by volunteers. In the streets and at the alternative media centers people worked hard to sustain correct information serving the movement in Copenhagen and the rest of the world. Hundreds and hundreds of unpaid volunteers each doing their task to help the collective effort.

I continued towards my borrowed bike hoping it still was placed were I left it. So it was. Now it was easy to make a long tour around the the police cordon and advancing towards the remaining blue bloc through the Amager commons marsh.

The People’s Assembly

And there it was after making ones feet a bit wet! Finally I were in the midst of the People’s Assembly. All the friends from the unified rural and urban struggle for food sovereignty, against economic globalization and for social justice everywhere also on the countryside and not only for urban and industrial people seemed to be there. There were Friends of the Earth Uruguay who together with Friends of the Earth Finland and Sweden were present already when People’s Global Action against “Free Trade” and WTO was established in Geneva in February 1998. Now we met again only missing our absent Finnish friends. The confrontational left were nowhere to be seen, at least their banners were gone. This was a gathering of the global South and their allies, with Jubilee South still proudly wavering their banner demanding: Change trade – not our climate and the people from Via Campesina wearing their green scarfs.

The People’s Assembly had been going on for quite a while. Documentation is easy to find via Indymedia: “The Peoples Assembly was streamed live thanks to the IMC-Radio crew, which was a great thing. Due to cop violence we missed the initial opening of the assembly (there was much chaos and running about)” You find three long webcast radio files at: https://publish.indymedia.dk/articles/1956

Photo by Climate Justice Action

Above all were there at the People’s Assembly many green Via Campesina flags and foremost Josie Riffaud, my favourite flower farmer from Bordeaux in France. Someone helped us and I could get the photograph made below with the Climate Justice Now! banner in the background.

Josie Riffaud to the left from Via Campesina International and Tord Björk, member of Friends of the Earth Sweden Climate Group and the author of this report in the hat with a Reclaim Gandhi sticker on the coat.

The Assembly was going to move after a while. The good mood from the whole march from Tårnby to the Bella center was still there. At the police line stopping us from going to the west were young people playing limbo with the plastic band stopping us from leaving.

The march to the city center

Now we were ready for marching again, a long march to the city center. The helicopter above us was ready borrowed for the occasion from the Swedish police to be able to carry heavy video machinery. All the police vans following us were ready, all the policeman walking at both sides of us were ready and so were we. Once more I tried the man in the hat trick. It did not work inside the kettle in front of the Bella center but here I hoped it could work as many times before. And so it did. I was able to get out to find my bike again and recatch the march later cycling through the Amager Commons.

So I did. The march was still in the very good mood it had been for the whole day.

Surrounded by the police we marched on and on.

Here I used the opportunity to finally escape and get a final view from a house far above the demonstrators coming from the Peoples Assembly. A long action day was over. The Bella Wall between people and power will never be the same.

Tord Björk

New call to action – Reclaim Power!

On the 16th of December, at the start of the high-level “ministerial” phase of the two-week summit, we, the movements for global justice, will take over the conference for one day and transform it into a Peoples Assembly.

Our goal is to disrupt the sessions and open a space inside the UN area to hold the Assembly. The assembly will give a voice to those who are not being heard, it will be an opportunity to change the agenda, to discuss the real solutions, to send a clear message to the world calling for climate justice.

There will be a legalized starting point, which will be announced to the media and the police. From there, the climate justice bloc will move on towards the Bella Center. Affinity groups will make their way to the border of the conference area from various directions. The aim is for all groups coming from the outside to start entering the UN Area at 10am. At the same time, groups inside the Summit will start to disrupt the sessions and mobilize people to leave the  negotiations and participate in the Peoples Assembly. The assembly will start at 12pm at the main entrance to the Bella Center inside the UN Area.

Reclaim Power! is a confrontational mass action of non-violent civil disobedience. We will overcome any physical barriers that stand in our way – but we will not respond with violence if the police try to escalate the situation, nor create unsafe situations; we will be there to make our voices heard!

The Peoples Assembly, in opposition to the false solutions being negotiated at the Climate Summits, will highlight alternatives that provide real and just solutions: leaving fossil fuels in the ground; reasserting peoples’ and community control over resources; relocalising food production; massively reducing overconsumption, particularly in the North; recognising the ecological and climate debt owed to the peoples of the South and making reparations; and respecting  indigenous and forest peoples’ rights.

After 15 years of negotiations and no real solutions to the climate crisis, we say enough! No more markets based solutions, no to corporate greed and short term politics deciding our future! No to colonialism and the land-grabs taking place in local and indigenous communities!

In December, we, from our many different backgrounds and movements, experiences and struggles, will come together. We are indigenous peoples and farmers, workers and environmentalists, feminists and anticapitalists.
Now, our diverse struggles for social and ecological justice are finding common ground in the struggle for climate justice, and in our desire to reclaim power over our own future.

See you on the streets!

4 000 in anti WTO demo in Geneva November 28

4000 people joined the march November 28in Geneva protesting ahead of the WTO meeting in an International demonstration as part of a week of action and debate around the WTO Ministerial which runs from 30th November to 2nd December.

The mobilisation was seen very much in relation to the COP15 UN climate conference taking place in Copenhagen 7th – 18th December – Economic Crisis, Climate Crisis, Social Crisis: It’s Time to Change Course! (see http://www.anti-omc2009.org/spip.php?article8).

Indymedia reports in German states that activists without any provocation from the police broke out of the demonstration from the very start and smashed cars and windows and then came back. At the beginning targeted against banks but soon against anything, a bijouterie and other shops, many cars and bikes, a bus stop. When at least four cars also was set on fire the police attacked trying to separate demonstrators from people causing property damage. Police used tear gas, concussion grenades and water cannon. The police claimed they could identify about 200 members of what was labelled the black bloc: “violent elements that join other demonstrations to cause damage.” The police said they were spread out along the route and police had to separate them from the other protesters. No injuries to police or protesters were reported, police said.

An hour after the police separated the demo some thousand people gathered again and moved towards the demo final in a park. Most went then in the direction of the WTO conference building but was finally stopped again by tear gas and water cannon. A bank was smashed but otherwise there was little to destroy in this district close to the railway station.

People gathered than in the park close to the railway station, still one could see families with children and listening to a concert. Finally the police, this time without being much provoked a lot of tear gas into the park and the people fled without much resistance towards the railway station. The police followed also filling the railway station with tear gas. Some were shouting slogans against the police and than moved away into the immigrant district nearby. One component at this last moment was “immigrantenkids” as a sign of domestic social unrest.

The outcome of the demonstration have caused different reactions. One international participant states “Speaking for folks in the South, we will not allow ourselves to be used as cannon fodder for privileged white middle class youth from the North seeking to work off their “animal spirits,” to borrow a term from Keynes”. Via Campesina made the following press release:

Also on the Swiss Indymedia website some reactions are strong also from people normally accepting strong actions: “What is the political message to smash the window of a bus stop? That we want a more bad public transport? That we want higher taxes? Or simply a reduction of the profit of insurance companies of 0,00001 promille?”

The claim that only rich peoples cars were smashed are challenged by others stating the opposite including destruction of bikes and the like. Activists defending the actions claim they were targeted with a few exceptions, how few the present police were in the beginning, how the police tactic was confused ending with: “im dezember nach kopenhagen!”

The Danish security police have stated in the mass media last week in general that activists aiming at property damage use the tactic to hide in broader demonstrations. Some Southern activists seems tired of undisciplined Western demonstrations and want a more strict non-violent behaviour. The old fashion way of dealing with these problems was demonstration guards keeping provocations both from the police and among the participants out of the demonstration. But the falling apart of collective organisation culture and the growing social unrest in Europe caused by growing social inequalities and promotion of individualistic consumer culture causes problems for coherent political protest. Hopefully lessons can be learned for Copenhagen.

Tord Björk

Sources: Indymedia, Germany, Switzerland, German and French, Berlingske Denmark

Press release about the demonstration by Via Campesina:

Geneva mobilization: where is the real violence?

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