Why is the left promoting police perspectives?

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tord Björk

Content

The COP15 promising ALBA mass meeting

The lost left wing opportunity

How the left supported the police against demonstrators in Copenhagen

Day by day reactions on repression December 12 to 18:

Saturday 12th of December – Come safely to peaceful demonstration

The left wing cover up

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

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

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

Wednesday 16th of December – “No soft feelings”

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

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

Danish self-criticism

Why is the left promoting police perspectives?

Danish political claustrophobia

The way the Danish left assess Copenhagen

The paternalistic Red Green Alliance

Trotskyist climate heroes without guts

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

From anti neoliberal left to authoritarian state-media governance left

Other material:

12 December Initiative – huge success or background for branding?

Open letter on Denmark’s freedom and legal situation

The whole world on trial

The Fall of the Bella Wall: Power Reclaimed

Danish political claustrophobia

I have been using time since March 2009 trying to discuss with any kind of organizations and activists involved in climate justice movement in Denmark whether environmental, left wing, peasants or any other strand. As I live in Sweden two hours from Copenhagen by train it has been fairly easy to go there. I have never in my whole political life met such paranoid people willing to take any odd argument for their extremist positions against each other. Regularly it was impossible to actually find out what the different positions were. Instead of speaking up organizations and individuals chose to read into their opponents actions and statements only that which exaggerated the polarization further.

It was as if what actually people had stated or done was uninteresting, the only thing to focus upon was the possible worst case scenario of what they could have said or were going to do, most often far beyond any worst case scenario. The insensitive intervention by activists from other political cultures were omnipotent language was claimed to be necessary to mobilize people in contrast to the Nordic more consensus oriented political culture also among system critical movements did not make things easier.

Danish poster for the 12 December march in typical youth house occupant style. Photo Tord Björk

The paranoid perception of uncontrollable masses of potentially violent activists coming to a large extent from abroad had caught the minds of any of those in the leadership of formal Danish organizations. There were exceptions as the Permaculture Association, the initiator and main political force within Klimaforum that tried to calm things down. But in general it was impossible to get a discussion focused upon what people actually have said or stated at different points, many times it was even impossible to find the original quote when it was inaccessible on the internet. People claimed exaggerating things about what had actually been said but were uninterested in serving international cooperation partners with the actual statements and in Denmark none seemed interested in a constructive debate based on a fair assessment of what different actors stated.

This included unfair criticism of every actor including the main stream NGOs but was mainly directed against the reclaim power action. Typical for the formal Danish organizations to react is that they responded to what reached the media, not when they received the actual reports from meetings. It is as if the Danish formal organisations have left any respect for agreements made by movements together and instead have become market oriented with mass media as their central reference for how and when to act.

Thus the formal Danish organizations did not state strongly their critical opinion against mass civil disobedience at the Bella center at the CJA meeting in June. They did not even open their mouth when the minutes from the meeting was sent 11th of June. Only when the Guardian wrote an article in late July about the Reclaim power action were WWF Denmark stated strong criticism against the violence this would cause the Danish organizations to start reacting.

Part of the reason why Danish system critical environmental and left wing organizations do not speak up is the result of a consensus culture built on trust. Thus when the strong reactions against the CJA decision in June to disrupt the official summit for a whole day and entering the conference building from the outside came they were tempered by the fact that Danish CJA activists told others that they also opposed the decision and that it would be changed if one trusted the process.

CJA meeting in October at Christiania. Drawing Tord BJörk

This was also the case, at least partly at next CJA meeting in October when the formulation was changed from entering the conference building to entering the Bella center area. But the problem was that the formal Danish organisations actually were totally against any non-violent civil disobedience action at the Bella center. The only problem was that they had refused to state their opinion openly making it possible for concerned climate change persons in Denmark or the rest of the world to react to their opinion. To late in late October chair persons for three social movement organisations, a peasant, a fisherman and a construction worker stated what most formal organizations thought, a non-violent action at the Bella center would result in unacceptable violence destroying the focus on politically important issues. The formal left wing and environmental organisations chose a more secret way of doing politics, they in practice often were even more opposing than the organizations whose chair persons had signed the open letter, but saw it as tactical to in practice be against the reclaim power action more covertly than state it openly. To enable an open discussion was against the interests of many formal Danish organizations.

It was as if they looked upon the climate summit as entirely an internal Danish affair were open discussion with movements from the rest of the world was irrelevant. They had the chance and why not then take the privilege of doing as they wanted as they had all the key positions for doing so within the state of Denmark. After all, global popular movements as Via Campesina should more be seen as a problem for their role in domestic politics and a trouble in their relationship with the police and governmental donors than legitimate promoters of civil disobedience at the Bella center. To the left it was more important to sit and clap the hands at movements and governments in the rest of the world struggling for climate justice and freedom than to engage in any serious discussion on cooperation across boarders in a way that somehow would put their well entrenched position in domestic Danish politics at any risk.

But this chauvinistic attitude within formal Danish organizations is not sufficient to explain their support of police and media perspectives. The claustrophobic feeling the unwillingness to in time discuss the most conflictual actions with international cooperation partners as if Denmark is isolated from the rest of the world was matched by also other disturbing tendencies.

Regularly when trying to discuss with Danish organization it became clear that it was not only polarization between organisers of different larger activities and between separate organizations but also within. Thus it was almost impossible to find any collective responsibility for the actions of the organizations. In the case of CJA it was all open. The decisions were made in consensus at meetings and the minutes published openly at the web site for all to see. Here the actions supported by CJA as well as when there were criticism of the political content of the 12 December message was possible to find.

When asking formal organisations the most common was to find out that it was someone else that actually was the one to ask. Especially problematic was it to find out the position of the Red Green Alliance in spite of that their activists played a central role in all mass activities in Copenhagen and in spite of that I met with both key persons from the party both from the organizing committee of the demonstration and their national board. Some of the organizations, most obviously Friends of the Earth Denmark could elect new representatives who totally opposed what the former representative had stated after endless discussions impossible for anyone to understand outside Denmark.

While organizations acted as if they had no responsibility to make their collective position known to others or even themselves there was a much more effective collective actor at work. When trying to discuss political principles and how to relate to different organizations and networks quite often the discussion focused on persons. We do not trust Tadzio Müller would the answer be on questions regarding why CJA was not taken seriously. As if I at all were interested in their claims that there were something called we that had opinions about individuals. When this kind of politically irrelevant critique of a consensus based mass action was repeated by Swedish left wingers this we became explicit as a collective actor, an actor willing to avoid any serious discussion on collective decisions and replacing it with a narrative of the great broad mass demonstration and the violent actions. One could of course trace some statements from Müller two years back at some climate camp showing that he was totally opposing UN or something else. But did it matter? Any politically active individual to not talk about organizations change their positions. What is relevant when discussing CJA is not the personal quality of some of the elected spokes persons, it is the collective decisions and estimations of what the mass of people would do.

Thus the political atmosphere in Denmark among formal organizations is individualistic, claustrophobic, and chauvinist. The argument often used is that things have changed so much in Denmark that there is no other possibility. That this is the case compared to the 1970s or 1980s is clear when centre left governments and the position of popular movements  were stronger. But that it has substantially changed also after 2002 when the same kind of right wing government was in place during the EU Summit as know can be questioned. It cannot be only external factors that can explain the way formal Danish organizations behave.

Tord Björk

Content

The COP15 promising ALBA mass meeting

The lost left wing opportunity

How the left supported the police against demonstrators in Copenhagen

Day by day reactions on repression December 12 to 18:

Saturday 12th of December – Come safely to peaceful demonstration

The left wing cover up

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

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

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

Wednesday 16th of December – “No soft feelings”

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

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

Danish self-criticism

Why is the left promoting police perspectives?

Danish political claustrophobia

The way the Danish left assess Copenhagen

The paternalistic Red Green Alliance

Trotskyist climate heroes without guts

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

From anti neoliberal left to authoritarian state-media governance left

Other material:

12 December Initiative – huge success or background for branding?

Open letter on Denmark’s freedom and legal situation

The whole world on trial

The Fall of the Bella Wall: Power Reclaimed

The paternalistic Red Green Alliance

The Red Green Alliance and non-parliamentary socialists and global justice generation are the central actors one could hope for among the left wing to act against repression. But the main stream Red Green Alliance have all through the process been unable to discuss serious issues. The fact that the official party platform for the Climate summit only included emission targets and inter state North South issues and had no social revolutionary components of the kind advocated by the environmental, peasant and other movements shows clearly that the party have internalized main stream NGO visions of politics and is not relevant for popular movements. The effort that Red Green Alliance made at Klimaforum to arrange a debate with other similar left wings parties in other countries on strategy showed clearly that those parties have little of coherence to say. The Left wing party leader from Sweden made an appeal for winning elections and for the rest it was hard to find something that caused any reactions outside the circle of already converted.

The dominant left wing media in Denmark is www.modkraft.dk set up when the Red Green Alliance did not afford to publish a weekly anymore. It is a broad publication reporting generously about civil disobedience actions, trade unions and the left in general.

The assessment at this news web site starts by asking if a new movement is born. The main stream radical left wing with Naomi Klein and CJA activists had predicted that there was a potential for a new climate justice movement after the global justice movement that can continue anti capitalist mobilization into a new era.

From Modkraft.dk: http://www.modkraft.dk/spip.php?article12296

Per Clausen from the Red Green Alliance then takes center stage in the article. He cannot for sure say íf a new movement is born but he is optimistic, especially due to the large participation in the 12 December demonstration.

” – It was far beyond my expectations and the demonstration had a clear political critique of market-based solutions, which were the agenda at the Bella Center. Copenhagen could well be the beginning of a movement in the long term.”

According to Per Clausen is the next step, to focus on two points. Firstly, local, by putting pressure on national governments and ensure that climate and energy policy change based on official declarations of intent from the COP15 meeting. Second, by holding an international perspective and build on the positive new departure in the climate movement, which marked Copenhagen.”

He continued:

”- Previously the movement was dominated by NGOs and lobbyists. Therefore, we must maintain the popular element and build on the strong commitment among other things expressed in Climate Forum, says he to Modkraft.dk.”

Finally the climate spokes person of Red Green Alliance had some words to tell about civil disobedience:

”Per Clausen also notes that the civil disobedient part of the movement, despite police mass arrests and imprisonment of the century people did not end in violent eruptions.

It is a great achievement that one maintained focus on non-violent protests and I think that the various elements of the summit-resistance played well together.”

This paternalistic clap on the head of the activists that so greatly resisted escalation into violence is interestingly combined with complete silence about the role of the left in individually supporting rather than collectively opposing this repression.

Tord Björk

Content

The COP15 promising ALBA mass meeting

The lost left wing opportunity

How the left supported the police against demonstrators in Copenhagen

Day by day reactions on repression December 12 to 18:

Saturday 12th of December – Come safely to peaceful demonstration

The left wing cover up

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

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

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

Wednesday 16th of December – “No soft feelings”

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

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

Danish self-criticism

Why is the left promoting police perspectives?

Danish political claustrophobia

The way the Danish left assess Copenhagen

The paternalistic Red Green Alliance

Trotskyist climate heroes without guts

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

From anti neoliberal left to authoritarian state-media governance left

Other material:

12 December Initiative – huge success or background for branding?

Open letter on Denmark’s freedom and legal situation

The whole world on trial

The Fall of the Bella Wall: Power Reclaimed

Trotskyist climate heroes without guts

The two competing trotskyist fractions within the Red Green Alliance had a lot more to risk. As they both are strongly involved in promoting movements as well as concerned about international cooperation, here one could expect interesting evaluations after COP15.

The International Socialists in Denmark closely related to Socialist Workers party in Britain had a key position in the Red Green Alliance as central in the organizing of the Global day of Action demonstration. The key person Jörn Andersen normally representing the Climate Movement in Denmark tried to calm down the polarization between the promoters of the mass demonstration and Reclaim power contrary to some left wingers in the Swedish Climate Action organizations who saw their chance in stating that violence and actions against a UN summit is bad while broad mass manifestations as during the Iraq war is god.

But the position of International Socialists seemed weak in the party. To get the party to mobilize was a hard job and to get a coherent position from the party on how to relate to the different mass activities even more so, if it ever was of interest or possible for this trostkyist fraction. The International socialists have a critical position in the party against the tendency of becoming more and more focused on parliamentary work.

The assessment by Jörn Andersen is also almost all inclusive:

The contrast between state leaders and lobbyists official minus-performance summit and “civil society”, grassroots activities could hardly be greater.

With 100,000 participants was the demonstration at the Climate Summit 12th December much larger than any of us dared hope.

At a very successful KlimaForum09 thousands of participants discussed the problem of climate change. The requirement of “System Change – Not Climate Change” was embodied in a declaration already signed by approx. 500 organizations from 70 countries.

Reclaim Power manifestation Peoples Assembly symbolized – despite police violence against both delegates and protesters – the community between North and South.

The diversity of activities and solutions created during the summit a global movement that now will root even stronger in the many participants home countries.

Here the different activities are not set up against each other, on the contrary they all get assessed on their own merits. But when addressing the future the only emphasis is on building a broader movement. As politically uniting he proposes campaigning for better public transport, stop for domestic flight or 100 000 new climate jobs. Social revolutionary demands are out of question.

Older SWP climate activist listening to young ones at the People’s Assembly. Photo

The problem for this internationalist troskyist fraction is that it lacks a lasting strategy other than opportunistic leftist engagement in campaigning with as broad coalitions as possible on issues that at the moment sounds pragmatically important. They should be honestly honoured for their great work in putting many years of work into building the broad alliances internationally on climate issues and trying to involve also the trade unions. But the lack of self criticism and lack of assessing the repression in Copenhagen make their position more weak than necessary. It is as if they want to say to the civil disobedience activists: Look now how repressed you were and how few, this shows that what we now need is a broad movement.

Two times have now Scandinavian political cultures been able to mobilize strong international events, the European Social Forum 2008 in Malmö and the mass activities at the Climate Summit in Copenhagen 2009. Alex Callinicos, influential in SWP Britain and internationally stated before ESF in Malmö that this would result in more reformistic and NGO dominated processes. The opposite became a fact. Both in Malmö and Copenhagen young civil disobedience activists took center stage and turned the dull ESF, Klimaforum and mass demonstration with a main message to appeal to leaders inside bella center into something much more interesting. In both cases NGOs were almost completely marginalized contrary to the predictions made by Callinicos, with the exception of the action were his own party had most responsibility, the mass demonstration in Copenhagen. When will we see a self critical assessment from this international troskyist tendency were they start to understand what went wrong in their interventions in the social forum process as well as the way broad alliances as the mass demonstration in Copenhagen are instrumentalized by branding NGOs, celebrities and political parties supporting repression of the demonstration without the immediate response from among others the International Socialists and their international comrades.

4th International parties from Sweden and France marching in the December 12 demonstration. Photo Röda Lidköping.

The other trostkyist fraction have a somewhat stronger position in the Red Green Alliance, the 4th International. They also have a stronger position in processes as social forums were popular movements can meet. They also have strong experience in anti repression work, e.g. the Socialist party in Sweden who seems to be better informed or at least actively informed about the conditions for police action and repression in Denmark than the Red Green Alliance.

The assessment by Thomas Eisler, member of the national board of Red Green Alliance and the 4th International is partly different from  Jörn Andersen’s but at many telling points equal. Eisler makes a long story about the demonstration and mentions the other activities more randomly although Klimaforum gets a fair assessment. The Reclaim power action is not even mentioned. Only lumped together with other direct actions after the 12 December demonstrations and described as getting support from ”a less amount of actvists”. More importance is given to Greenpeace and Via Campesina having their accreditation taken away inside Bella Center and the speech by Chavez.

The conclusion is:

But it is what was going on 12th December, which summarizes the true renewal of the movement for climate justice.

While at least Andersen opened up for some kind of understanding of unity of the climate justice movement as not only a question of a gradual shift to a bit more radical least common denominator based broad demonstrations and coalitions Eisler does the opposite.

Contrary to Andersen in his shorter article Eisler mentions the police violence against the demonstrators. But only against those in the demonstration the 12 of December and as a factual presentation excluding the role of the passive demonstration committee not to mention the support from his own party in the beginning of the police perspectives and the role given by his party to the demonstrators as sending signals to the leaders.

Tord Björk

Efter klimatopmødet
En global bevægelse er født
Jørn Andersen
http://www.socialister.dk/avis/visartikel.asp?art=29424

København: Den nye globale bevægelse
Jonathan Neale
http://www.socialister.dk/avis/visartikel.asp?art=29332

Terry Conway og Thomas Eisler Efter topmødet: København – et vendepunkt for bevægelsen
http://www.socialistiskinformation.dk/side.php?id=419

Copenhagen: a turning point for the movement
Terry Conway, Thomas Eisler
http://www.internationalviewpoint.org/spip.php?article1776

Content

The COP15 promising ALBA mass meeting

The lost left wing opportunity

How the left supported the police against demonstrators in Copenhagen

Day by day reactions on repression December 12 to 18:

Saturday 12th of December – Come safely to peaceful demonstration

The left wing cover up

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

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

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

Wednesday 16th of December – “No soft feelings”

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

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

Danish self-criticism

Why is the left promoting police perspectives?

Danish political claustrophobia

The way the Danish left assess Copenhagen

The paternalistic Red Green Alliance

Trotskyist climate heroes without guts

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

From anti neoliberal left to authoritarian state-media governance left

Other material:

12 December Initiative – huge success or background for branding?

Open letter on Denmark’s freedom and legal situation

The whole world on trial

The Fall of the Bella Wall: Power Reclaimed

From anti neoliberal left to authoritarian state-media governance left

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Demonstration marching towards Bella Center 2002

Confronting the police at Bella Center 2002

Black bloc in the main demonstration 2002

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

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

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

Photo Avenirclima.info

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

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

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

Reclaim Power action december 16. Photo:

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

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

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

Police at Reclaim Power action December 16. Photo:

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

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

Tord Björk

Content

The COP15 promising ALBA mass meeting

The lost left wing opportunity

How the left supported the police against demonstrators in Copenhagen

Day by day reactions on repression December 12 to 18:

Saturday 12th of December – Come safely to peaceful demonstration

The left wing cover up

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

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

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

Wednesday 16th of December – “No soft feelings”

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

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

Danish self-criticism

Why is the left promoting police perspectives?

Danish political claustrophobia

The way the Danish left assess Copenhagen

The paternalistic Red Green Alliance

Trotskyist climate heroes without guts

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

From anti neoliberal left to authoritarian state-media governance left

Other material:

12 December Initiative – huge success or background for branding?

Open letter on Denmark’s freedom and legal situation

The whole world on trial

The Fall of the Bella Wall: Power Reclaimed

COP15 Reclaim power videos

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

Some links to videos about the Reclaim power action at the Climate Summit in Copenhagen december 16 2009. There were four blocs. The blue bloc starting at Tårnby station with a permit to march to the outside of the Bella Center area, The Green bloc that gathered at Örestad station, The bike bloc that should b moveable but got their bikes taken by the police and got mny arrested and the yellow bloc, people with badges ión the inside of the Bella center. You find more about the Reclaim Power action here: http://www.aktivism.info/socialforumjourney/?p=953

Reclaim Power, that talk, that “riot”, that action, the consequences
full article with embedded vids found at (including the recalim power prediscussion at Christiania December 14)
http://climatecaravan.wordpress.com/2010/01/29/reclaim-power/

Indymedia on the march and the push
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gz_YYFN45mM

Reclaim power
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/video/2009/dec/17/copenhagen-climate-change

Part 03 – Reclaim Power, Bella Centre Copenhagen Wednesday 16th December – COP15 – A lot of interviews during the push, the People’s Assembly and the march back to the city centre:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rEDkNxFhwJM&feature=related

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

Police pepper spraying the demo:
http://modkraft.dk/spip.php?article12278

Resisting the police en masse
http://modkraft.dk/spip.php?article12277

The push
http://modkraft.dk/spip.php?article12276

The push and violence:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=307r5Kap-gI

COP15: Reclaim Power March 12.16.09 Police Charge The Demonstration to Seize the Sound Truck
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8DGnGudWrp8&feature=PlayList&p=DB64227C8569EC57&index=0&playnext=1

Democracy now! At Tårnby towards the push at Bella center
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W3FRxbdax_k&feature=related

COP-15: Undercovers snatch a man at Reclaim Power demo (16 Dec)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iPJraQEFJ3Q&feature=PlayList&p=DB64227C8569EC57&index=2

The Green bloc at Örestad:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gfvaXJKWobU&feature=PlayList&p=DB64227C8569EC&index=18

The Green bloc gets arrested

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fQP_pmzn-yk57

GrazwuzelTV: The Green bloc, the blue bloc, the ”raft bloc” and the Peoples assembly

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5sDX_pD_m30

Reclaim power from the inside meets the police
http://us.cnn.com/video/?/video/world/2009/12/16/vo.cop.denmark.protests.cnn
http://www.democracynow.org/2009/12/16/police_tear_gas_beat_back_protesters
Peoples Assembly and chanting at Tårnby
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=igRddmE5Y8w&feature=related

Photos:

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

The Fall of the Bella Wall: Power Reclaimed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peasants from all over the world organized in La Via Campesina

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

People gathering at Tårnby under Jubilee South and Via Campesina flags

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Reclaim Power March to the Bella Center

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

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

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

The demo van in the end of the blue bloc

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reclaim power and push for climate justice from the inside

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

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

The chant began with Josh Kahn Russell making the announcement.

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

    PROTESTERS: Justice!

    JOSHUA KAHN RUSSELL: Climate!

    PROTESTERS: Justice!

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

    PROTESTERS: Power!

    JOSHUA KAHN RUSSELL: Reclaim!

    PROTESTERS: Power!

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

    PROTESTERS: The talks!

    JOSHUA KAHN RUSSELL: Take back!

    PROTESTERS: The talks!

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

    PROTESTERS: Justice!

    JOSHUA KAHN RUSSELL: Climate!

    PROTESTERS: Justice! Reclaim power! Reclaim power! Reclaim power! Join the People’s Assembly! Join the People’s Assembly! Join the People’s Assembly! Take back the talks! Take back the talks! Climate justice now! Bolivia! Bolivia!

    TOM GOLDTOOTH: We’re here to support our brother. We’re here to support our brother Evo Morales, who is coming today. He has given us direction, that these negotiators need to make a commitment. We need to save Mother Earth by having strong binding agreements. They are demanding 49 percent reduction targets—49 percent reduction targets by 2020, not a sellout position like United States, who’s coming here saying they’re entertaining four percent reduction levels. That’s an outrage. They are here to demand that the Annex I countries pay up, pay up their ecological debt. So this is a support of Bolivia.

    PROTESTERS: Join the People’s Assembly! Join the People’s Assembly! Join the People’s Assembly! Join the People’s Assembly! Take back the talks! Take back the talks!

    JOSHUA KAHN RUSSELL: So what’s going right now is that we’ve had a group of people from civil society inside the talks who have come outside the talks to have a People’s Assembly to put a new agenda for the talks, to reset the dirty, false solutions that are being discussed in there, to put real solutions for communities.

    PROTESTERS: We are peaceful! What are you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Survival Media’s photostream at Flickr web site

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

Photo with restricted copyright, www.vanwaardenphoto.com

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

Photo with restricted copyright, www.vanwaardenphoto.com

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

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

The outside push for climate justice

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

Photo from Climate Justice Action website, Logan Dogan

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

Photo from Climate Justice Action website, Logan Dogan

The police advanced slowly. People were getting prepared.

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

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

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

A first attempt at pushing towards the fence was made.

The police in action. Photo from Indymedia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Renewed support from the inside

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

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

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

Someone waved his rain bow peace flag facing Bella Center.

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

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

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

In his statement he made it clear:

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

and furthermore:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The People’s Assembly

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

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

Photo by Climate Justice Action

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

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

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

The march to the city center

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

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

Surrounded by the police we marched on and on.

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

Tord Björk

New call to action – Reclaim Power!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See you on the streets!

Predicting and avoiding COP15 repression

This piece was written more than a week ago. As unfortunatly the issue have been proven to be of current interest it is published here to contribute to the current discussion aiming at avoiding unnecessary escalations on all sides to promote political solutions.

Tord Björk

 

Predicting and avoiding COP15 repression

Police

Have been given free hand to do more than they need to do. Two-sided
assessment necessary.

Corporations

People accept to a large degree actions against corporations as Shut it down
action against a coal power plant in Copenhagen in September. The corporate
lobby is enormous inside the Bella Center but with low credibility among
people in common on this issue.

Media

Are gearing up for selling violence but have already used up some of its
credibility by hunting shifting ghosts portrayed as villains. Limited by the
gravity of the issue and divisive governments.

NGOs

Have been doing good anti-repression work in Denmark and the UK. Have lost
much of their strength by being almost totally coopted inside Bella center
and thus in strong need of the mass demonstration December 12 were they need
the alliance with all other groups and have joint interest in stopping
escalating repression. As the same time organisations as WWF are strongly
promoting the picture of violent protesters which should be demonized.

Popular movements

Did not speak up for a long time and when they finally did against Push for
climate justice ideas to overcome police barriers by non-violent action this
caused intense discussions. The tensions are still there but the dialogue is
promising between the different protesting movements and hopefully a better
understanding of Danish consensus political culture also among system
critical left and ecological groups have emerged.

Activists

The strong separatism between different system-critical activist movements
in Denmark has been a problem. The omnipotent language of the Climate
Justice Action June decision to close down the COP15 for one day caused
severe questioning of the capacity of formulating political goals that were
achievable and got to the main point. The tendency of using the climate
issue as a guise for a general message that the whole system is totally
wrong without any direct involvement in trying to address the immediate
concerns of people struggling for climate justice all over the world have
also caused severe questioning of the goals of some protesters. But the
non-violent code of conduct already in place in June and the clear
compromise recently restated in terms of making alliances between both broad
international popular movements and progressive governments are positive
decisive factors. Without radical non-violent direct action that is built
upon this kind of alliances we would have been much worse making it possible
to isolate both protesters only using words within the rules of mass media
and lobby culture as well as those doing direct actions without building
alliances.

Political content

Climate justice political platforms are equal behind many mass activities
which promotes possibilities to focus on common political interests against
repression.

Conclusions

….

 

Start of more promising dialogues

The possibilities to get different actors and activities on a path were they
complement each other and build upon the different qualities of Danish and
other political cultures are crucial to avoiding repression. For quite some
time this seemed to be a problem in the preparations towards COP15 in
Copenhagen. But the dynamics between the four main mass activities,
Klimaforum, People and Planet First demonstration December 12, Reclaim Power
action December 16 and the mass meeting with presidents from progressive
Latin American states December 17 have together with a beginning dialogue
between different actors the last month opened up for a more promising
outcome. Mass action organizers talks to the police, Danish organisations
with different opinions talk to each other and a dialogue between Danish
organisations and international ones have also taken place pointing at more
political results rather than break down of dialogue between different
protest groups thus opening up for more wide spread repression.

There is always the risk that international organizations come and occupy a
place doing their own thing with some few local cooperation partners and
than move on to next international gathering without understanding or
getting nurtured by the political culture they did not know they visited.
There is also the opposite risk that the local organisations do not make the
effort to understand the reasons and legitimate concern of guest from other
local places on this planet and also uses the situation to project their own
understanding onto the rest of the world. When such diverging interests gets
to strong there are great risks for both splits in the movement and
repression.

There are a number of arguments for being careful about the possibilities
for repression during the COP15. In an earlier article about the repressive
culture in Denmark including the way the police behave I pointed at many
worrisome factors. See:

How to predict repression?

In 2002 I published an article in Expressen, a national daily in Sweden, in
advance of similar summit protests as now planned to march to the Bella
Center when EU states of heads were meeting. Then I predicted that the
outcome would not end in escalated confrontations between the police and
protesters while mass media was as full of anticipated violence as now.
During the Summit people dressed up in white overalls with protection
equipment tried to push themselves through the police barriers close to the
Bella Center without success and no escalation occurred. There were tense
situations during the mass demonstration in the city centre when masked
plain cloth police tried to provoke the demonstrators and attempts were made
at splitting the demonstration apart against the promises made by the head
of the police operation. This was well managed by a disciplined
demonstration leadership which demanded from the head of the police to stop
the provocations which also happened. There were also demonstrations to a
prison were people were held in preventive arrests were the tension was
higher when the police encircled the core of the demonstrators but then
allowed people to leave. Then some smaller confrontations occurred for the
rest of the evening but never really escalating into a more violent
situation.

This time the situation is different in some aspects. There will be more
people and this time from the whole word and not only EU countries. More is
at stake as this UN conference has been planned for many years as decisive
for the future of climate politics. The variety of actors is wider and the
time of the course of events is a lot longer. But the Danish political
culture have not changed very much, it was right-wing neoliberal then and is
still right-wing neoliberal. The movements have separate strong fairly small
and autonomous  bases both urban and rural while challenging politics at the
national or international level mainly becomes expressed by narrow single
issue mobilisations while the established organisations mainly use the role
as the responsible expert and service provider. As repression in modern
Western societies involves some similar patterns and actors and the Danish
political culture have not changed that much it might still be useful to use
the same criteria for assessing the possible repression this time as well.

The experience that made some Swedish popular movements aware of the
problems with large scale repression was the course of events during the EU
Summit in Gothenburg 2001. The confrontations started by the police storming
the whole counter summit venue and convergence center at the arrival of
president Bush. It escalated on the second day up to such a level that the
police used live ammunition almost killing one of the protesters on purpose.
The third day started with a police attack at the main international
demonstration which was stopped by disciplined demonstration guards and a
police force that was so scared by the media stories that there was a mutiny
and refusal of follows orders on a day that ended when the anti terrorist
squad was used to storm the new counter summit and convergence center were
people were sleeping.

With this experience in mind it was not only possible to a bit better
predict the outcome of repression but also more important the possible
political result of popular mobilisation at summits. This by looking at such
actors as governments, police, media, corporations, political parties, NGOs,
popular movement organisations and activists as well as the political
content of different activities. Of importance is also the actual power
relations and not to overestimate, or to underestimate the possibilities for
changing politics by different activities.

Political parties actively against repression

One decisive factor behind the escalating repression during the EU Summit in
Sweden was the way the political parties acted. Both the Left and the Green
party was part of the broad networks organizing demonstrations. But once the
confrontations started they both avoided going to the places were problems
occurred to see with their own eyes and report about their impressions, or
even opposing repression. They also stopped discussing with other
organisations in the networks they belonged to. Instead they addressed the
media with the same messages as the representatives of the social democratic
governing party had told everybody, that the riots were caused by violent
trouble makers, especially foreigners. The only party that chose to also
criticize the police was the non-left-wing Greens and not only talk about
violent trouble-makers. The Swedish governmental message was also in unison
used by politicians inside the EU Summit that talked about an international
circus of anarchists seeking violence.

When the whole political opposition in parliament including those that
organized protest demonstrations participated in the same political campaign
claiming that the blame should be put on a part that was labelled as
violent, the door was open for escalating violent repression and media
campaigning for the police version of what happened.

In Denmark two political opposition parties in parliament did the opposite.
Red Green Alliance and Socialist People´s party representatives went to the
border as witnesses to assist activists coming in ad took to the streets to
follow up. In parliament the parties consistently brought repression issues
up. These Danish parties would not suddenly start to use the same language
as the government. In Sweden all parliamentary parties had declared that
this was impossible as it would be to interfere with the way the police were
working. As this strong involvement by Danish parties was announced in
advance it was possible to predict that one important factor for reducing
repression was in place.

This time the Danish political parties have been slow in waking up. There
was also a municipal election in the end of November that slowed down their
involvement. The Socialist People’s Party have also developed to a more
populist version trying to forget as much as possible the first word in its
name. But on the other hand the Radical Left (Radikale Venstre, a
social-liberal non-left-wing party) has turned up as involved in climate
issues- Together they and the Red Green Alliance took a strong stand against
the new trouble maker law package saying that they would take it away if
they came to power while Social democrats at first were positive and in the
final end they and the Socialist part voted against but without guarantees
that they would take it away once in power.

The fact that a social-liberal party is more trustable than some of the
left-wing parties in repression issues is strengthening rather than
weakening the parliamentary role compared to 2002 when there were the two
Socialists parties that acted. The wider political party involvement is also
reflected among the supporters of mass activities. The social liberal party
is supporting the demonstration on December 12 as all the left-wing parties.
But there is also some influence via key organisations in the leadership of
the mass activities. The only Danish organisation that is in the
coordinating body of more than one mass activity is the Climate Movement in
Denmark. This organisation is both member of the demonstration coordinating
group and the board of the Klimaforum and have active members from
social-liberals to Red Green Alliance. Thus the situation concerning the
important parliamentary anti-repression work is in good place also this time
as the dialogue and active involvement can be geared up.

Limitations of the aggressive populist politics of the government

It is clear that both the government and media have been aggressively
preparing for repression. With the right-wing populist and climate change
sceptical Danish People’s Party as the driving force with its decisive
support in many issues the government have been pushing for any kind of
hysteria and measures to prevent what has been described as illegitimate
violent protests. Closing the borders for activists has been one of the
popular demands from the Danish People’s Party. The media accepted the
governmental excuse for the trouble maker law package as directed against
those using violence when it was the opposite. Directed against those that
happened to be close to were direct confrontations took place or only was
part of a sit-down action. In discussions with the police the organisers of
the December 12 demonstration was told that the new law package was actually
not needed by the police. They could do everything they wanted also using
the existing laws. Thus we have a government that is doing everything to
present itself as foremost in anti-repression even more foremost than its
own police force supported by the media.

This one could see as worrisome. But on the other hand the government have
some problems when treating the repression issues as only a way to gain
domestic populist goals more than in the run-up to the EU Summit in 2002.
The way the Danish government is in the hands of a climate change sceptical
right wing populist party to handle political issues is not necessary a
strength when it comes to repression of climate justice protesters. At the
Climate summit to much is at stake for the political reputation of Denmark.
Other countries from the whole world are watching.

The decisive difference at the governmental level lies here. This time the
Danish government cannot trust the other participating governments from
having the same view as the host country which they had a the EU-Summit in
Gothenburg. This time the Danish government have to face a different
situation with a perfectly timed mass meeting with Latin American and
Caribbean presidents from ALBA countries on December 17 that might oppose
the words that populistic right-wing parties makes the Danish government to
use about repression against protesters demanding climate and global
justice. A situation were governments that cannot be labelled as irrelevant
as from small island states might share the opinion including the way to act
of many of the radical protesters outside the Bella Center. A situation were
the way the Danish government have handled the repression issue might be
used to state that the COP15 should have been placed somewhere else as
Denmark cannot live up to the democratic right of every voice to be heard.

The whole strength in escalating violent repression against protesters lies
in being capable of labelling the protesters as completely outside any
influence in any issues, as left-wing extremists. This labelling will be
problematic once the actual protesters arrive. Then it must be made clear
that strong links exists between also radical protesters and a wide range of
other actors including governments inside the negotiations.

Thus the Danish government better will do everything to se to that the
repression will not escalate including changing its own rhetoric about
protesters if they do not want to create severe troubles. There is something
rotten in the state of Denmark if the climate sceptical right-wing populism
in fact decides how protesters from the whole world are treated by
governmental rhetoric and repression.

Police

The police have been given free hand to do more than they need to do. A well
informed assessment of the possible ways the Danish police can act has been
produced by Climate Collective in Denmark. It begins by stating in a good
and open mood: The following pages are analyses and guesses based on past
experiences. Use this material for what it is. Use common sense, bravery and
the power to create history to decide the rest. You find it here:
http://de.indymedia.org/2009/12/267774.shtml

Apart from this analysis of the tactics there is a wider picture to be taken
into account. How much will the police use their many weapons and other
means at their hands? Here a two-sided assessment is necessary building on
both the way the police acts and possible limitations.

The many reports that Danish police is not to be trusted are worrisome.
Yesterday they went into the sleeping quarters at Teglholm handcuffing
some 15-20 people.

The continued developments have strengthened our picture of the repressive
climate. The police seems to behave as they have free hands to do whatever
they like. At a meeting with the organisers of the December 12
demonstrations we have been told that they threatened every foreign
participant in the demo that did not bring their pass ports with them when
walking by immediate deportation if they by chance where belonging to a
group of protesters that the police decided should be identified and moved
away.

The police also claimed at this occasion that they had no need of the new
proposed law, they could already do whatever they needed to do as the
present laws gave them free room to do that. Meanwhile the strongest
supporter of the new law package that the police claim they do not need is
the head of the police operations, Per Larsen. A policemen that used 15
years to hunt down a left wing group that robbed bank and finally killed a
policemen and than got caught.

The way that Danish organizations seems to respond to this is by sending the
message to everyone that they have to bring their pass port with them to the
demonstration instead of starting to question the police and the repressive
climate in Denmark. Is it really so that we should except that the police
threatens everyone among the maybe ten thousand foreign participants with
immediate deportation if they by chance are caught in some police raid.
According to our Swedish information the Danish police has very small
restrictions on what they can do but can be severely punished if they do
something wrong. Thus they could easily claim that they want to put into
arrest large groups of people and then they could easily find some foreign
person among them that had forgotten his pass port and immediately deport
her or him out of the country and none could claim that anything wrong had
been done.

Is this acceptable? Rather then accepting that the police in advance tries
to claim that they will use any law to a maximum it is about time to become
proactive and question the way the police find it OK to deport people or any
other extreme measure which predictably will create disorder rather than the
opposite.

The Danish-Swedish EU scandal destroys the trust in COP15

Tord Björk | Climate,political culture,Propaganda,Summits | Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

The EU country Denmark has been exposed at the beginning of COP15 to use the UN Conference for its own benefits. Instead of being the neutral facilitator of a process they have chosen to destroy the trust in UN. They have given rich and the new industrialized countries a privileged access to the process making their own Copenhagen accord in advance to strengteh the position of the already strong in the negotiations. This means that the only democratic tool for impoverished as well as small nations to have a say in global politics have been undemocratically wiped away by a small country. This shows an eagerness to gain profit by only letting rich and influential countries to have a say in the secret preparatory negotiations going on in the corridors of power outside the formal democratic procedure. Once Denmark was a strong supporter of the UN and acted together with other Nordic countries in favour of poor countries and strengthening the role of small nations. Now this is history and Denmark is aggressively using its power to support the rich and the act against the poor and small.

 

 

Profits from serving the interests of the US

 

Denmark have specialised in this behaviour in the oil war against Iraq. Siding with the US Bush government more than any other country Danish corporations could gain profits from the war. Especially the Maersk shipping company that alone emits more green house gases than the whole of Denmark makes huge profits on shipping arms to Iraq. The Danish right-wing minister Fogh Rasmussen made a career in promoting the war by stating that it was a fact that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. His foreign minister said the same 34 times, only once he said eventually. When it became clear that it was a lie and no weapons of mass destruction existed in Iraq he forgot completly about the 34 times and stated that he always had said eventually had weapons of mass destruction. So Danish ministers are experts in lying to us saying what is opportunistic for the moment and then claim that they never have said what they said yesterday when the situation changes. Furthermore they make populistic decisions to please the US. Fogh Rasmussen decided to double the number of Danish soldiers fighting in other countries side by side with the US. The only problem was that he at the same time decided to give no more money to the military. This caused a severe break down today recognized in official reports of the Danish defence as it was impossible to relocate resources quickly without harming the whole Danish defence organisation the way the prime minister and the US wanted. So with the merits of lying about the reasons for the Iraq war and a defence turned upside down Figh Rasmussen had the merits to become head of NATO.

 

Sweden’s EU-presidency used against the interests of the South

Sweden also have a right-wing government acting the same way as the right-wing Danish government. In the case of Sweden it is equally misusing a key position. Under the Swedish EU-presidency the primeminister Reinfeldt have chosen to neglect the possibilities to have informal meetings to see to that  all countries including the poor and small are listened to. Instead Sweden have seen to that EU follows suit with Denamrk and only listen to the G20 countries sharply in contrast with earlier Swedish foreign policy and against the official EU rhetoric. Behind the scenes are the two formally key EU countries  in the COP15 process using their power to destroy what was left of the trust among impoverished countries that EU or the once progressive Nordic countries would take their considerations into account.

 

 

 

50 years of solidarity and environmental concern destroyed in one blow

 

This is tragic and signals a new period in world politics. 50 years ago in 1959 Sweden was the first Western country to oppose Western imperialism and refused to support the French view on the war in Algeria. Ten years later Sweden initiated the first UN Conference on environment held in Stockholm 1972. Denmark followed suit and supported in many cases also the South and started ambitious environmental prorgammes. Now in one blow Denmark and Sweden jointly destroys 50 years of good reputition in North-South and environmental issues. At the same time they show that they no longer believe in the idea of the UN as defender of smallnations in world politics but sees a future only as servants of the interests of the powerful nations. Jointly they thus have destroyed what trust there was in EU as a progessive part  in the negotiations thus beginning the Copenhagen Summit with a Danish-Swedish EU scandal against a fruitful COP15.

 

 

 

Tord Björk, Friends of the Earth Sweden

 

See also protest letter below: http://www.aktivism.info/socialforumjourney/?p=847

Danish Government Slammed for Bias and Secrecy in Role As President of UN Climate Conference

Tord Björk | Climate,political culture,Propaganda,Summits | Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

7 12 2009

COPENHAGEN – As climate negotiations open in Copenhagen, civil society organizations around the world issued the following statement strongly criticizing the Danish government for acting in a biased, manipulative and nontransparent manner in its role as President of the Conference of the Parties:

 

We, the undersigned civil society groups, express our concern over the actions of the Danish government in its role as President of the UNFCCC Conference of Parties.

The historic Copenhagen Climate Conference has yet to begin and a lengthening list of concerns is being raised by governments and by members of civil society:

We criticize the undemocratic practices adopted by the Danish Prime Minister of convening small and exclusive groups of countries before the Copenhagen meeting, excluding the vast majority of countries whose futures are at stake in the negotiations.

We criticize the Danish Prime Minister’s decision to produce draft “Copenhagen Accords” before the meeting has even started. These have been circulated to a select few governments, excluding others. They have been produced in spite of on-going negotiations under the UNFCCC and prejudge the outcome of good-faith negotiations among all Parties.

We further criticize the texts on the basis that they systematically ignore the demands of developing countries and overwhelmingly reflect the position of Denmark and other developed countries on key issues. They seek to shift the burden of addressing climate change from those who caused it to those who suffer its worst effects.

We criticize the Danish Prime Minister’s consistent disregard for the concerns of developing countries by downgrading expectations for Copenhagen to a “political agreement” and by falsely stating that the Kyoto Protocol ends in 2012.[1]

These actions are inconsistent with the duty of the Danish Government in its neutral role as President of the Conference of Parties. They are an attack on the democratic processes of UN negotiations. And they are an affront to the interest of small and poor countries in the negotiations.

Further actions of this kind threaten the trust that is the very foundation of a fair and effective deal in Copenhagen. They undermine the capacity of the Danish Government to play a constructive role in the negotiations. Left unchecked, they threaten a Copenhagen collapse.

Copenhagen must mark an historic turning point. Parties have placed their trust in Denmark’s good reputation as a fair and impartial player. We therefore call for:

The COP President to serve in an even-handed and unbiased manner;
A fair, open and transparent process; and
The full participation of all countries in an inclusive manner.

The imperative in Copenhagen is not to seal a deal at any costs – but to provide the opportunity for the nations of the world to work together to secure one that is fair and effective.

We call on Denmark to support such a process. The world is watching.

Signatory Organizations:
ActionAid, India
Asia Indigenous Women’s Network
Centre for Civil Society Environmental Justice Project, South Africa
Center for Encluntes and Active Non-Violence, Austria
Concerned Citizens Against Climate Change
ETC Group
Federation of Community Forestry Users, Nepal
Friends of the Earth International
Friends of Siberian Forest, Russia
Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Phillipines
Global Forest Coalition
Indigenous Environmental Network, North America
International Forum on Globalization, USA
International Rivers, USA
National Forum for Advocacy, Nepal
National Forum of Forest People and Forest Workers, India
Presencia Ciudadana Mexicana A.C., Mexico
Rainforest Foundation UK, United Kingdom
Rainforest Action Network, USA
Red Mexicana de Accion frente al Libre Comercio (RMALC), Mexico
Red Mexicana de Afectados por la Mineria (REMA), Mexico
Society for New Initiatives and Activities, Italy
Tibet Justice Center, USA
Third World Network
Union de Grupos Ambientalistas, Mexico
Pan African Climate Justice Alliance
World Development Movement, UK

« Previous PageNext Page »