Mensaje de organizaciones latinoamericanas sobre Klimaforum10

Climate panel at the Foro Social Mundial tematico seen as a model for Cancun by some Mexican actors as RMALC opposing Klimaforum10. To the left Alejandro Villamar from RMALC, in the middle and to the right Francois Houtart. Tord Björk was the fourth participant in the panel here taking the photo.

La Alianza Social Continental, Jubileo Sur/Américas, CLOC-Via Campesina, Amigos de la Tierra América Latina y el Caribe (ATALC), REBRIP, RMALC, Marcha Mundial de las Mujeres, Coordinadora Andina de Organizaciones Indígenas (CAOI), la Convergencia de los Movimientos de los Pueblos de las Américas (COMPA) y CADTM Abya Yala estamos comprometidos en la construcción de un proceso de movilización conjunta en torno a la problemática del Cambio Climático, sus causas estructurales y sus reales soluciones.En este proceso, identificamos algunos momentos importantes en los próximos meses, como la cumbre Enlazando Alternativas, el Foro Social Américas y la realización de la COP16 en Cancún. Dado que el tema de esta última es el cambio climático, será especialmente estratégica para el conjunto del movimiento mundial sobre justicia climática.

Como se mencionó en la carta de la Asamblea de Movimientos Sociales, realizada en el marco de la Conferencia Mundial de los Pueblos sobre el Cambio Climático en Cochabamba “Evaluamos que la cuestión del cambio climático es importante junto a otras manifestaciones de la crisis sistémica global. Para confrontar realmente la ofensiva imperialista debemos frenar la militarización de nuestros territorios y la criminalización de los movimientos sociales, toda la agenda neocolonial contenida en los Tratados de Libre Comercio, el endeudamiento ilegítimo, el poder de las transnacionales y especialmente el modelo del agronegocio y extractivo que promueven en la privatización de la vida y la naturaleza”.

Durante la conferencia de Cochabamba discutimos y avanzamos en consolidar las alianzas con el ánimo de afianzar un proceso de movilización hacia Cancún, lo suficientemente sólido para darle continuidad posteriormente. En ese sentido, se resaltó la importancia de  retomar y seguir construyendo a partir de las experiencias anteriores, como la de la lucha contra el ALCA, que permitió identificar puntos de encuentro y luchas comunes entre los movimientos sociales del continente que nos oponemos a este modelo económico y social. Estas luchas han sido visibilizadas de muchas maneras, incluyendo a través de la realización de Cumbres de los Pueblos, que son momentos de resistencia, debate, construcción colectiva y movilización. Estas Cumbres constituyen una tradición para los movimientos de todo el hemisferio y tienen una legitimidad ganada como espacio de lucha frente a las distintas iniciativas neoliberales en contra de los pueblos.

En consecuencia, frente a la COP16 en Cancún, consideramos que es fundamental fortalecer el proceso continental, articulando con redes y organizaciones de otras regiones del mundo, como lo hemos hecho también anteriormente. Si bien respetamos y valoramos la experiencia del Klimaforum, éste respondía al contexto europeo y danés, específicamente. Intentar trasladarlo o importarlo a nuestra región implica desconocer la realidad de nuestras luchas, así como la identidad y la historia de las movilizaciones en el continente.

Reconocemos la importancia de llevar a cabo articulaciones con otras regiones, en especial en torno a este tema, cuyas implicaciones afectan a los pueblos de todo el mundo. De acuerdo con el espíritu de lo acordado en Cochabamaba, la prioridad es nutrirse y articularse con las campañas, redes y organizaciones regionales y globales que en los últimos años han trabajado para enfrentar el cambio climático y defender los derechos de la Madre Tierra, y otras redes, organizaciones regionales y globales sectoriales y temáticas que han asumido el mismo compromiso. Muchas de nuestras redes y movimientos tienen trabajo a nivel mundial. En ese sentido, creemos que la convocatoria y las movilizaciones de Copenhague fueron muy importantes y es necesario darle continuidad a las alianzas que allí se consolidaron y que también venían de procesos anteriores. Sin embargo, ello no puede resultar en un desconocimiento de los procesos nacionales y regionales.

En relación con el trabajo que se está desarrollando en México, consideramos importante plantear algunas precisiones: existen varios grupos de organizaciones sociales de todo el país que está trabajando en consolidar un espacio amplio de convergencia y movilización. Este trabajo es el resultado de una autoconvocatoria de todos los interesados (entre ellos RMALC, las organizaciones mexicanas que forman parte de la campaña “Píntale la raya al cambio” , Otros Mundos, organizaciones de todos los sectores sociales incluidos miembros de Vía campesina, y algunas ONG’s comprometidas con estas luchas). Dado que se está buscando una coalición lo más amplia posible, basada en el trabajo con las organizaciones sociales, se trata de un proceso que requiere su tiempo, en el que es necesario hacer actividades de difusión, formación y discusión para construir consensos de carácter popular en torno a nuestras demandas por justicia climática.

Apoyamos este proceso desde el nivel regional y creemos que el espacio que se desarrolle frente a la COP16, debe ser amplio, tener un carácter político y de movilización, en el que sea posible debatir con las distintas redes y organizaciones sociales a nivel mundial, para alzar nuestras voces de rechazo al modelo económico y demandar justicia climática.

Message from Latinamerican organizations on Klimaforum10

Alejandro Villamar to the left from RMALC, Mexican Network against Free Trade  that have signed the letter from Latin American organization below. In the middle Nicola Bullard from CJN at the discussion on Cancun at Foro Social Mundial tematico in Mexico City before the letter was sent.

The Hemispheric Social Alliance, Jubilee South/Americas, CLOC-Via Campesina, Friends of the Earth (Latin America and the Caribbean), REBRIP, COMPA, Jubilee South/Americas, Andean Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations (CAOI), Brazilian Network for the Integration of Peoples, the World March of Women and the Mexican Network against Free Trade and CADTM Abya Yala are committed to work  together in the construction of a process of joint mobilization around the problem of climate change, its structural causes and true solutions.  We have identified several key points in the coming months including the Enlazando Alternatives Summit, the Americas Social Forum in Paraguay and COP16 in Cancun.  Since the theme of COP 16 is climate change, it is especially strategic for the worldwide climate justice movement.

As stated in the letter from the Assembly of Social Movements, held during the World Peoples Conference on Climate Change in Cochabamba:  “We consider that the question of climate change is important, together with other manifestations of systemic global crisis. To truly confront the imperialist offensive we must stop; the militarization of our territories, the criminalization of social movements, the entire neo-colonial agenda contained in the Free Trade Agreements, illegitimate indebtedness, the power of transnational’s and especially the agro-business and extractive model which promotes the privatization of life and nature”.

During the Cochabamba conference, we discussed and advanced in the consolidation of alliances to build a process of mobilization for Cancun which is sufficiently solid to have subsequent continuity.  In this respect, the importance of building on pervious experiences such as the struggle against the FTAA, which enabled us to identify points of convergence and common struggles among the social movements of the continent opposed to this economic and social model.  These struggles are made known in many different ways including via Peoples’ Summits, which are moments of resistance, debate, collective construction and mobilization. These Summits are a tradition for the movements of the entire hemisphere and have earned legitimacy as spaces for struggle in the face of a plethora of neo-liberal initiatives against the peoples.

As a result, in the face of COP 16 in Cancun, we believe that it is crucial to strengthen the continental process, coordinating the efforts with networks and organizations from other regions of the world, as we have done in the past.  While we respect and value the experience of the Kilmaforum, it responds to the European and more specifically, Danish context.  An attempt to transfer or import it to our region would not respect the reality of our struggles, the identity or history of the mobilizations in our hemisphere.

We recognize the importance of joint actions with other regions, especially related to this theme, in light of the implications that affect the all of the peoples of the world.  In keeping with the spirit of agreements reached in Cochabamba, the priority is to strengthen ourselves and link eforts with the campaigns, networks, regional and global organizations that have worked in recent years to confront climate change and defend the rights of Mother Earth, as well as other regional and global sector networks and thematic organizations which have made the same commitment.  Many of our networks and movements are working at a global level.  In this respect, we believe that the convocation and mobilizations in Copenhagen were very important and it is necessary to continue the alliances that were consolidated there, and emerged from previous processes. However, this must not ignore national and regional processes.

In relation to the work that is happening in Mexico, we think it is important to make a few observations:  there are a number of social organizations around the country which are working to consolidate a broad space of convergence and mobilization. This work is the result of a call which went out among interested groups (including RMALC, the Mexican organizations which are a part of the “Drawing the line for Change” campaign, Other Worlds, organizations from all social sectors including members of Via Campesina and some NGOs which are a part of this struggle).  Given that the goal is the broadest possible coalition, based in the work of the social organizations; it is a process which requires time. Activities that provide information, formation and discussion must be carried out in order to construct popular consensus around our demands for climate justice.

We support this process from a regional level and we believe that the space being developed in preparation for COP16 must be broad, have a political character and be oriented towards mobilization, where a debate can be held with networks and social organizations at a global level, to raise our voices in rejection of the economic model and to demand climate justice.

Towards COP16 in Mexico

The discussion the second day at FSM tematico on Cancun initiatives

Five Mexican movement initiatives towards the Climate summit in Cancun were presented at two meetings during Foro Social Mundial tematico 2-4th of May in Mexico City and at an ad hoc meting during WSF international meeting. Partly the initiatives were linked to each other. Political content and what organizations actually backs which initiatives was somewhat unclear. Partly because some were not present at the first meeting as Klimaforum10 and Via Campesina, partly because what to do and what demands to put forward is still to be discussed. The five initiatives were:

Sandra Luna from CEMDA speaking and Jorge Villareal from Boell foundation charing the meeting during the first day of the discussion at FSM tematico on cooperacion towards Cancun

1. The meetings without a name, afterwards others have labeled these meetings Frente amplio, broad front, a classical Latin American left wing concept. 6 such meetings has taken place. Participants are networks cooperating internationally with Latin American movements on anti neoliberal and other issues, NGOs as Greenpeace and other rather main stream environmental organizations as well as ecological grass roots groups.

Alejandro Villamar from RMALC to the right together with Christophe Aguiton and Nicola Bullard during the second day of the Cancun discussions

2. Climate justice campaign towards Cancun, a Latin American campaign also still without a name supported by Mexican organizations as RMALC, the network against free trade that grow out of the struggle against NAFTA. This group  participates in the broad meetings and describes its purpose as participating in the open meetings to come to an agreement with the bigger environmental NGOs, often having international funding, on a common platform towards Cancun. (these environmental NGOs are sometimes mentioned as important as they are organizing the climate campaign “Pintale la Raya al Cambio Climatico” – http://pintalelaraya.org. It should also be noted that in general main stream environmental organizations and Climate Action Network (CAN) groups in Latin America are more radical than in the US or Europe but of course still far from the position of ecological grass roots groups and a clear Climate Justice Now standpoint, see Pintale la Raya al Cambio Climatico campaign as an example.

Silvia Ribeiro from ETC group at Via Campesina seminar discussing with local activist

3. Organicaciones de base ; almost grass roots organization, and partly or all Mexican Via Campesina. This was presented as a strand that was not completly integrated in the other initiatives.

From the left Eugenio and Ruben from Cambios and to the right Miguel Valencia from Ecomunidades, grass roots promoting Klimaforum10

4. Klimaforum 10 – an initiative by ecological grass roots organizations with social justice concerns on a radical platform similar to the Cochabamba and Klimaforum09 declarations excluding the Climate Action Network and tcktcktck campaigning promoted by Greenpeace and others. Some of the ecological groups behind the Klimaforum10 initiative have more radical demands on emissions, growth and social change than the environmental NGOs or even Climate Justice Now but want to have a broad platform for the Klimaforum10 based on the rights of Mother earth, Human rights and migrant rights and the system change not climate change declaration from Copenhagen.

In general Klimaforum10 people were more open about the content, both their own and what they wanted for a common platform. They stated also where the grass root ecological movements might differ from others. They said: they are for animal rights, and more to the point they are against capitalism but also oppose socialism when it is developmentalist (desarollistas) which is the case with many left wing political parties in Latin America and according to their experience in the Mexican capital region. This is why they are all for the Cochabamba declaration on the rights of Mother Earth with one exception, the notion of socialism. They have been the only force in the climate justice discussions here at FSM meetings on climate justice cooperation that have positively mentioned the Zapatista kind of struggle while being sceptical towards left wing parties. They were also the only ones mentioning the systemcritical Mesa 18 in Cochabamba were indigenous groups and ecological groups met opposing mining and other development projects causing social and environmental problems in Bolivia and ALBA countries. This Mesa 18 was not allowed to be part of the official Cochabamba meeting. That Klimaforum10 mentioned Mesa 18 was not seen positively by some other groups present belonging to the Cochabamba main stream.

Klimaforum10 have 18 people engaged voluntarily and meetings twice a week. They have contacted the foreign ministry for infrastructure support.

5. Local ecological grass root organizations in the Cancun region. Fundacion sin fronteras working on ecological issues and solidarity economy and likeminded small groups in the region presented the situation. Danish Peoples Climate Action (mostly big NGOs of the tcktcktck kind having a coordination during COP15 in Copenhagen) have visited Cancun and a meeting for all interested took place. The local “left wing” government have made and NGO with one person in key position previously in the government. As the local grass roots organizations are sceptical towards the left wing government and its record they have maintained their own cooperation but lack resources.

Discussion during the first day on initiatives towards Cancun

The first meeting was held on Monday. It was chaired by a young person from the Boell foundation which is linked to the German Green party and a main donor to many NGOs and environmental projects in Mexico. The chair intervened quite extensively in the discussion. The main contradiction in the Mexican work towards Cancun was said to be the relationship with government. On what issues was not presented which made the discussion obscure. Centro Mexicana de Derechos Ambientales seemed not against to have some contacts with the government while RMALC was opposed. Both groups participates in the broad meetings without name.

The discussion was extensive but did not make the political content much more clear. There is a strong Latin American cooperation between well established networks that used the meeting in Cochabamba to further develop their work towards Cancun. It was also clear that there were many Mexican grass roots organisations, especially rural, that had their own discussion on their own agenda. All Mexican groups stated that there was a need to develop more consciousness about climate change and climate justice in Mexico.

The most clear political agenda at the first meeting was promoted by RMALC, mainly stating it was climate justice and referring to Cochabamba and some general climate justice agenda as Latin American networks have formulated the issue. It was more presented as something that was well known already and not to be contested rather than in a critical manner showing what the differences could be in relation to other opinions or in relation to possible internal differences.

A more clear political discussion seems to be hard to have as the broad meetings was sometimes presented as only for information exchange and the participants so far in spite of many meetings have not made their opinion clear. At other times the purpose was presented as enabling to come to an initiative later.

The general Picture can be summarized: On the one hand there was a Mexican initiative emerging with RMALC as the key organization within the broad meetings getting their legitimation from their established position as a network working with many different summits and latin American networks as the Hemispheric Alliance. On the other hands Klimaforum10 with Ecomunidad and like minded organization as key groups that have a long term commitment to local ecological struggles also against the left wing regional government that was funding the FSM tematico. These groups lack international experience before going to Copenhagen, have coordinated the ecological part of Mexican social forums earlier when it was not as much in their mind coopted by the regional government. They also never recieved any international funding. Apart from these two groups the third dominant actor are environmental NGOs as Greenpeace and others often funded by Boell foundation who all have a key position in the Frente amplio meetings. These groups stated clearly their undecisiveness, that they wanted to have the situation open including cooperating with CAN and not only CJN. Via Campesina made it clear that they are going to have their own process to find out their agenda in different parts of Mexico.

Nicola Bullard to the left from Climate Justice Now and Focus on the Global Sotuh together with Alberto from Via Campesina Mexico and Silvia Ribeiro from ETC group

A problem seems that many Mexican groups except for the ecological grass roots groups who have for long been working on climate and environmental issues and RMALC who have a long record in international cooperation with other networks are uncertain about the issue and want to wait and see tofind out were possible cooperation partners are. RMALC and their closest cooperation partners seems especially looking at tactics in relation to election that will take place in the whole region of Cancun the following months. Thus a clear political picture is not possible until after this according some estimations. To get support from the regional government is seen as a key element for getting  resources by this group and then go to the federal government. Via Campesina had announced a sceptical meeting in Mexico City in connection to both FSM tematico and WSF International committee meeting. But this was postponed due to Mexican Via Campesina that needs more time to discuss their position.

Tord Björk

Miljöförbundet Jordens Vänner, Friends of the Earth Sweden

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.

The Global Climate Day of Action 2009

The global day of action started well when the sun went up over Australia and soon 100,000 demonstrated all around Australia with 40,000 in Melbourne alone. It continued with 5,000 protesting in New Delhi and demonstrations at 20 other locations in India as well as places in Nepal and Bangladesh. The ‘Beat the Heat’ rally in the Netherlands gathered 10,000, a demonstrations in Madrid and South Africa thousands.

Meanwhile with the active involvement of the new international coalition of NGOs – the ‘Global Campaign for Climate Action’, and the newly formed “350” organisation there was a vast number of 3 224 vigils across the globe. in just about every country of the world. These mainly took the form of “Vigils for a Real Deal” under the Tck Tck Tck brand or candlelight vigils under the ‘350’banner – but there were also plenty of other actions or ones that mixed various elements of the internationally coordinated campaigns.

Photos from tcktcktck campaign web site:

Australia

Australia Sydney

China

Japan

Thailand

Jordania

Sarajevo in Bosnia

Johannesburg in South Africa

San Cristobal in Chiapas

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.

Three left wing parties supports police perspectives

Tord Björk | 12 December Initiative,Action,Climate,police,Propaganda,Repression,Summits | Sunday, March 14th, 2010

Protest outside the Danish parliament december 17. Photo Avenirclima.ínfo

Two left wing parliamentary parties took the lead in addressing the conflict. First was the Red Green Alliance, the most radical parliamentary party in Denmark. In a press release the party strongly condemned activists throwing stones at windows and police. These activists was the main threat against ”peaceful demonstrations” and the cause behind ”if people in the future abstain from participating”. What was important was to involve many people in sending ”a clear signal to those in power”. After this strong message in support of a police perspective placing throwing stones at police and windows in plural on what had happened before the mass arrests the party ended by calling for an investigation of unfortunate police behaviour. A second left wing party followed suit the same evening. The justice affairs spokes person of the Socialist People’s Party, chose to present the same story about activists throwing cobble stones at the police followed by the conclusion: ”When such an incident occurs, I think we all have an expectation that the police intervene and stop such incidents. The alternative could be a smashed city, people randomly hurt or that the large demonstration was stopped and the important message to politicians not delivered. I therefore fully support that the police intervened. It meant that most of the demonstrators could continue peacefully to the Bella Center which they should be thanked for.” The social democrats supported the police even more.

The issue of discipline and capacity to defend participants in a demonstration must be addressed in a time of repressive political climate. But it can be done from a perspective of collective responsibility. One such is made by Gunnar Westin from the 5h International”

”The lack of organisation also meant that a smaller group could break the agreement that had been made with the reformist wing of the movement, about refraining from any actions that could provoke the cops during the march. The attacks on the stock exchange building and the bottle-throwing gave the cops a pretext to attack. Even if the cops bear the responsibility and need to be condemned for their violent practice, the breaking of discipline was a major error. During tightly guarded demonstrations with little preparedness for defence, such actions are irresponsible to say the least.”

The left wing and other Danish political forces responded to the repression in different ways soon changing their positions and starting to criticize each other rather than to defend the democratic right of the climate protesters in Copenhagen. You can follow how different actors chose to state their often shifting opinion day by day here: http://www.aktivism.info/socialforumjourney/?p=1169

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: In the media

The message in the media was clear about the December 12 demonstration. In TV2, one of the main stream channels, the news of the activities outside COP15 that they were divided in three almöst equal parts. First came a report about how people in the demonstration had been throwing stones at windows and how a policemen had been hurt. Then one could see mass arrested people sitting on the street while the head of the police sated that it had been necessary to intervene to protect the demonstration so that the peaceful demonstrators in dignity could continue. The second part had a Danish top model and speaker at the demonstration to tell the viewers of the message from the many demonstrators. She said that what happened at Bella Center was like in a family, there were quarrels at times but in the end things would be solved. In between her statements the viewer could see her catwalking in fashion clothes. A member of the Danish construction workers union acting as demonstration steward said something negative about violent activists and a young person was presenting criticism against the treatment of those arrested. Finally Vestas wind mill stand at the Forum climate fair was presented in length. It was this fair that Never trust a COP had the idea to protest against instead of walking with the main demonstration. Now the director of Vestas could blow air together with children and the Danish crown prince making a model of a new Vestas wind mill spinning.

Ekstrabladet presented the story that a policeman had been hit by a stone and that the black bloc and some foreígners were arrested on Amagerbrogade after some firecrackers had been shot according to the police on the bridge between Christianshavn and Amager. On a news video by the same daily one could see a lot of people dressed in different clothes neing among the first arrested. Headlines on the website stated that Beautiful Helena were holding a speech with pictures of the top model walking among the demonstrators in a tcktcktck message on her breast. Another title on December 12 stated that a violent circus was ready for making riots.

In general the Danish press gives a bit better picture. But also Politiken, a liberal daily considered to be serious with an editor that later condemned the use of arbitrary mass arrests at Amagerbrogade gives the top model Helena Christensen and the other celebrity speakers the main stage. ” – I think it is reasonable to assume that we all hope for a fair and binding agreement in Copenhagen, said the Danish beauty” writes Politiken and continuous presenting a message from the front with ”peaceful demonstrators” with the head line ” Demo vanguard: Too bad with riots”. An article from Ritzau, the Danish news agency, once more presented the false information that a policeman had been hit by a stone at the demonstration when in fact it had happened far away from the demonstration and after the mass arrests had taken place. The article listed all the countries the arrested people had come from. In a hour by hour report from Politiken if one was willing to follow the details the truth about were and when the policemen was hit was stated. In general main stream press also told the story about how the police had forced or guided Never trust a COP into the main demonstration, but often as in the case of the biggest Danish daily, the right wing Jyllandsposten, only in the web edition.

The international press had more political content in its reporting about the demonstration. But also a liberal paper as the Guardian gave Helena Christensen’s message a large space- The views of the police was also presented: “There was some cobblestone-throwing and at the same time people were putting on masks. We decided to go for preventive detentions to give the peaceful demonstration the possibility to move on.”

Madeline Kovacs is making a critical assessment of the media coverage of the December 12 march on It’s Getting Hot in Here, Dispatches from the Youth Climate Movement:

”During the event, I was working in downtown Copenhagen alongside TckTckTck, 350.org, and Avaaz staff, collecting photos and videos coming in from actions all over the world. Behind me, a huge 2 by 5 foot screen showed local TV coverage of the march.

I was inside a media hub, surrounded by information, and the positive messages that kept flooding in. But until I heard verbal accounts from marchers and observers, and saw the footage that Ekta Kothari, Project Survival Media videographer, had shot during the day, I assumed that this particular action, the march in Copenhagen, had been pretty scary. Most of it wasn’t.

Upon her arrival in from the cold, Ms. Kothari, put it this way, ’Honestly, since I was much ahead of the arrests, for me it was just a very powerful moment, like one of those which usually make history. It’s a real shame that despite such a magnanimous effort, the media can only focus on the downside of events!’ ”

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.

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