CJA statement on Copenhagen protests

CJA statement on Copenhagen protests
Media reactive
December 12th demonstration, differences between groups & violence
 
BACKGROUND
In the lead-up to, and during, the COP15 meeting in Copenhagen 7-18th December many groups will significantly increase their level of public activity, media and campaigning efforts. Groups, from all over the world, are of course very different. Within the movement there is a range of difference in the approach, values, demands and tactics used to bring about change. We welcome this diversity.
 
There have been a number of media reports about ‘radical green groups’ planning to ‘storm’ the Copenhagen Summit and disrupt the meeting, and how certain groups want to ‘set Copenhagen on fire’. These are likely to increase in number as we approach Copenhagen (e.g. http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/jul/21/copenhagen-climate-summit-protest , http://www.information.dk/216605 (in Danish)
 
Media are already searching for signs of divisions from within the movement to produce media stories that will focus on the differences between groups and not the fact that we are a diverse movement with a loud and clear message: we need action to avoid catastrophic climate change now. We need to steer away from these attempts and always focus on the message. We need to be aware that a divided movement, with groups fighting groups, can be used as an excuse for non-action on climate. We cannot afford this to happen.
 
We need to specifically make sure that the global day of action, December 12th, is messaged as a day when we all stand united across the world.
 
There are two networks that the media are focusing specifically on: Climate Justice Action (CJA) and Never Trust a COP (NTAC).
 
CJA is a global network of people and groups including Friends of the Earth and Focus on the Global South and a full member of the coordination group of the Dec 12th demonstration, enjoying the same trust and respect as anyone else within the diversity of the coalition. The CJA are organising a series of non-violent direct actions in the lead up to and at Copenhagen, including plans to mobilize between 5-15,000 protestors to take over the meeting space at the Bella Centre on 16 December. More info on CJA: www.peoplesclimateaction.net
NTAC is a relatively small direct action network that was formed as a network to mobilise the radical left towards the COP15 climate summit in Copenhagen. The network has now dissolved as ‘mobilisation is complete’ and there will be no activities in the name of the network, but rather different action groups and activists taking the agenda forward during COP15. NTAC recently posted a video online (War on Capitalism: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n62BhmVGdPs) that resulted in many media stories around that this network wants to ‘set Copenhagen on fire’ and the prospect of violence during COP15.
In is important to note that both the coordination group for the Dec12th demonstration and the Danish police feel confident that the risk of violence is being managed appropriately. There is a call-out for all groups to respect the ‘codex’ and the principles of the Dec 12th demonstration, which has hitherto been adhered to. There is also agreement within the Dec 12th coordination group that the strategy for dealing with concerns about violence that might occur should be to: a) not assume there will be violence before it has happened, b) have a ‘no comment policy’ on the planned actions of other groups, c) only respond in the media if in fact violence does occur (see reactive below).
 
Please feel free to use the following reactive or use as inspiration if it helps you answer tricky questions from the media.
 
SUGGESTED REACTIVE LINES
 
ON THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN GROUPS AND TACTICS
We welcome the diversity of the climate movement. We do not comment specifically on the tactics employed by other organizations, networks or groups. We support the right to peaceful protest including non-violent direct action.
 
Tens of thousands of people will be gathering in Copenhagen at the end of the year to demand urgent action on climate change – backed by hundreds of millions more right across the world. There will be differences of opinion and differences of approach but most share a common goal – to avoid catastrophic climate change. Action is urgently needed now to dramatically cut emissions and support the world’s poorest people who are already being hit hard by a changing climate.
 
WHAT DOES [insert group name here] THINK OF CJA’S PLANS TO ‘STORM THE UN SUMMIT’?
We do not comment on the plans and activities of other groups and networks. We support the right to peaceful protest including non-violent direct action.
 
DOES [insert group name here] AGREE WITH GROUPS THAT SAY THAT THE UN CLIMATE TALKS WILL NOT SOLVE THE CLIMATE CRISIS?
We believe the international climate talks – which involve all the worlds’ nations – are currently our best chance of finding a global solution to the climate crisis. The ingredients of a fair, ambitious and binding agreement in Copenhagen are already on the table. The only thing lacking is the political will to negotiate final choices.
 
DO ALL GROUPS INVOLVED IN THE DECEMBER 12TH DEMONSTRATION SHARE THE SAME DEMANDS FOR A GLOBAL DEAL?
There are a number of issues where groups agree, and issues where we do not, however the main message is the same: we demand urgent action now to dramatically cut emissions and to support the world’s poorest people who are being hit first and hit hardest by a changing climate. We must avoid catastrophic climate change.
 
WHAT DOES [insert group name here] THINK OF THE ACTIONS BEING PLANNED BY NTAC?
We do not comment on the plans and activities of other groups and networks. We support the right to peaceful protest including non-violent direct action.
 
ON THE RISKS OF VIOLENCE DURING COP15
We do not comment on activities that have not yet taken place or the plans and activities of other groups and networks. We support the right to peaceful protest including non-violent direct action. We do not support or condone any form of violence.
 
ON THE RISKS OF VIOLENCE IN THE DEC 12TH DEMONSTRATION
The Dec 12th global day of action is about millions of people standing united on this day to demand action on climate change.
 
Thousands of people of all ages, nationalities and all walks of life will be gathered in Copenhagen to make their voices heard as part of a mass peaceful protest. They will demand urgent action now to dramatically cut emissions and to support the world’s poorest people who are being hit first and hit hardest by a changing climate. World leaders must listen to these voices.
 
IN CASE THERE IS VIOLENCE DURING COP15
We do not support or condone violence in any form. The climate movement is truly global and diverse – the vast majority of which are committed to peaceful protest. We cannot take responsibility for the actions of individual groups. We are in Copenhagen – along with hundreds of organisations representing millions of people around the world – to peacefully protest for a fair and strong climate deal.
 
DOES [insert group name here] BELIEVE THAT DANISH AUTHORITIES ARE BEING OVERZEALOUS/CRACKING DOWN TOO HARD ON ACTIVISTS?
The police in Denmark have come under unprecedented criticism for their disproportionate policing of protest (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/15/world/europe/15denmark.html) and the Danish government have been heavily criticized for their new ‘hoodlum law package’ (http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/nov/26/denmark-police-powers-copenhagen)aimed at extending police powers for arresting protesters during the Copenhagen Summit. We supports trade unions, developmental, environmental and other organisations in their valid protests against the law package (http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/nov/04/copenhagen-climate-talks-protest-law) and call for the Danish government to uphold the right to legitimate protest during the Copenhagen Summit.

PS to my knowledge Friends of the Earth  has not decided to be a member of CJA but have attended meetings and is thus listed on the website. Friends of the Earth in many countries cooperates with CJA, Via Campesina and many other popular movements in a climate justice block in the December 12 demonstration.

The new media-hype: The Never trust a COP

Tord Björk | Action,media,political culture,Propaganda,Summits | Sunday, December 6th, 2009

The new media-hype: The Never trust a COP

For many months there has been a media hype about violence and the Reclaim power action on December 16 organized by Climate Justice Action. A week ago the focus suddenly shifted towards Never trust the COP instead and December 12.

How to respond to this media hype about the possibility of activists using the occasion including being part of demonstrations or mass action and then break out them them to make property damage often impossible to see the political message in for people in common? At the demonstration in Geneva against WTO this kind of tactics causing criticism also from Southern WTO opponents.

The international idea to abstain from commenting other tactics have been the rule so far and has many advantages. But this does not work well in Scandinavian political culture. Diversity of tactics may well work, but only up to a certain level. Furthermore you are supposed to trust those you cooperate with. If they do things completely outside the consensus feeling of what is acceptable also among most system critical groups, than there is a problem.

An example of the media discussions the last days you find below from November 25 from Information, a national daily. I have translated it badly with the help of google and made some adjustments to show how messaging might look like in Copenhagen.

I am quoted extensively in the last part of the article. Here I go against the role of not commenting other groups. Firstly I do comment on other tactics. I also address the issue of violence specifically to the COP context.

I guess one can handle this in different ways and have nothing against that other voices abstain from commenting the tactics of others. But if everyone abstains we will get political anorexia of the kind you can read in the first part of the article, a lot of people saying nothing or being alarmists.

I am quoted as starting with “The problem is that the system is violent, as we see when biofuels is stealing land from poor peasants or the oil war in Iraq,” The key point I make when criticising Never trust a COP is “And when the large NGOs are not criticizing the system, but rather trying to brand themselves they thus are reminding of the young people who criticize the system well enough, but doing riots in a way that is more about identity politics than to create change,”

This is a double critique of different tactics often presented as totally opposite to each other but here claimed to be two sides of the same coin. In this way the issue of violence is brought back partly to the system and to those that legitimize this system to continue violent practices as biofuels.

The article ends by: But Tord Björk is not afraid that the message must be drowning in smashed windows. “Why the tendency to paranoia? If not the media blows it up, this is just some small groups who may become violent in confrontations with police. But the widespread violence comes out of the results of the political decisions that do not seem to bring us out of the fossil fuel era.”

A first illustrated blog post on this subject from October you find here:

December 16 more non-violent than December 12?

Enclosed below: The article from Information on Never trust a COP.

From Information, a Danish daily

To force capitalism to its knees

By: Lars Borking
25. November 2009 | History

The autonom network Never Trust a Cop will give capitalism a deathblow, but is so secret that the people behind will not explain how to succeed by breaking some windows in the inner city.

‘Everyone talks about the climate. We do not, “reads the text on the poster from the German part of the network Never Trust A Cop. Black bloc mobilizes to smash windows in Copenhagen to curb climate change – and smash capitalism.

illustration from nevertrustacop.org

The same day as the great popular demonstration for an ambitious climate agreement will gather 40,000 people in Copenhagen a small autonom group are planning smashing some windows in the inner city. The Network Never Trust A Cop (NTAC) has plastered Nørrebro in Copenhagen, with posters, showing both a burning city hall and some stone-throwing autonomous with the text: ‘Capitalism falters – let’s make sure it falls. ”

Despite the ambitions that fails nothing, so has the network isolated itself from all others and no one will speak to the press. Either believe the people behind NTAC that they alone can topple the empire, or they have chosen radio silence, because it must be obvious to others, how some smashed windows and burning containers must help stop climate change.

“If you fail to make politics and not defend your methods, you can never get far. It is the movement’s dead end,” says René Karpantschof, a researcher in the protest movements at the University of Copenhagen, who himslef has a past as a squatter.

He has as researcher explained how violent forms of action may well provide policy outcomes, provided that simultaneously broad alliances are created and public support. But such matters have Never Trust A Cop in no hurry. On their website they make it clear: ‘We refuse to equate us with treacherous NGOs and all those self-styled’ protest leaders’, we reject all governments and all leadership.

Unknown revolutionary

Neither the unions nor among environmental organizations, one senses, who ‘Never Trust A Cop’ is and the few who do will not say a word.

“If you quote me the least, I will never talk to you or Information again,” threateningly states an activist from a peripheral Swedish environmental group that sympathizes with the political message: that capitalism is the problem and the climate summit just gives a little green varnish. The activist must otherwise go to Copenhagen to make presentations on the context, and although Information has received some fine quotes, the newspaper does not dare take the risk of losing an important source. Thus, it is not only NTAC that marginalize themselves – they also get help from people who are sympathetic towards their message.

In Climate Movement in Denmark there is complete confusion. Spokesman Thomas Meinert Larsen explains to Information:

“Just at our meeting yesterday we discussed who they are, and there was one who said that perhaps it was. what is it now, they are called, those who lived in Italy during the 2nd World War II? ”

– Fascists, the man from Informations asks skeptically.

“Yes, exactly. But if so, of course, they differ greatly from the Danish extreme left, “says Thomas Meinert Larsen doubtful.

12. december

At Greenpeace, you are annoyed that NTAC is planning to make trouble.

“Our biggest concern is that the focus seems to be about burning houses instead of whether Obama will ensure a strong climate treaty. It will harm the climate debate and entertain people with the wrong impression, “says Henrik Pedersen, campaign manager at Greenpeace.

“We get visits from eg several Pacific states which are disappearing into the sea, and they might see this meeting come to act on a few rabid,” he explains.

Greenpeace, along with many other organizations to organize the large demonstration on 12 December, and although NTAC has reported that they would make trouble on the same day, they have promised to stay away from the demonstration.

“We have a big and strong demonstration. We are talking about an event that will be backed up from around the world, “says Henrik Pedersen.

More than 400 organizations from 55 countries are behind the demonstration.

Lømmelpakken (Hoodlum law package)

Today, the parliaments reads the so-called “lømmelpakke” (hoodlum law) and ironically this is considered to help a network as Never Trust A Cop, because sentences for peaceful protests turned violently higher. Due to the law package must people eg 40 days in jail if they sit down in front of the police, as recently happened in protests against the deportations of Iraqis by Brorson Kirke in Copenhagen.

“It is clear that if we suddenly come to jail to sit down and take a hiding from the police, someone will perhaps consider whether they would instead be throwing stones at a safe distance,” says René Karpantschof, researcher in protest movements University of Copenhagen.

And vice versa. The poster of a burning city also gives politicians a convenient bogey to refer to when they quintupled the financial penalty for disorderly conduct and will throw people engaged in civil disobedience in 40 days’ imprisonment.

“The government will use these people as an example, although one would have constraints whatever,” says René Karpantschof.

The World Wildlife Fund have been uncertain about whether to risked their name by taking part in the great demonstration. Not because it fears that the rally will be anything but peaceful, but because they are not sure that people can discard the message along if someone at the same time is burning containers somewhere else.

“We are afraid that the message of the peaceful demonstration is being destroyed by riots in the city,” says Eskild Holten, campaign director of World Wildlife Fund.

But it is not here the concern lies with the Friends of the Earth, which is also co-organizers of the big demonstration.

“The problem is that the system is violent, as we see when biofuels is stealing land from poor peasants or the oil war in Iraq,” says Tord Björk, Friends of the Earth, Sweden.

“And when the large NGOs are not criticizing the system, but rather trying to brand themselves thus reminding of the young people who criticize the system well enough, but doing riots in a way that is more about identity politics than to create change,” believes the Swede.

On his blog on the Web he makes himself merry over the Danish skirmishes. He has been in Denmark for several preparatory meetings.

‘The Danish organizations have been so afraid of the civil disobedience actions that are planned in the days after the demonstration, but they had not seen.” Cluck Tord Björk. ‘. the posters in Copenhagen, which uses a violent rhetoric and mobilizes to December 12. ”

But even than Tord Björk is not afraid that the message must be drowning in smashed windows.

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