How the left supported the police against demonstrators in Copenhagen

Protest outside the Danish parliament December 17. Photo Avenirclima.org

Decisive in the struggle against state repression by criminalisation of popular movements, beating demonstrators and putting them in prison or by other means is political mobilisation. Historically the left have been an important force in this anti-repression work together with solidarity between all kinds of popular movements whether defined as left or primarily by other categories as Christian or other faith groups, the environmental movement, radical pacifists or the feminist movement.. Also liberal and conservative forces defending the rights of the individual have sometimes played an important role.

All these anti-repression forces were strongly present at the protests at the Climate Summit in Copenhagen in December 2009. The issue as such have provided a basis for broad alliances often on a system critical platform. Especially privileged were three left wing and one social liberal party as key note speakers and among the organisers of a mass rally with 100 000 participants on December 12. The parties have strong organizational resources, a member base and easy access to media. Almost one thousand of the demonstrators got arrested and put in a special prison and a thousand more during the time of the UN conference. There was a great need and possibility for defending the freedom of assembly and speech in Copenhagen.

The historically interesting during the protests at the Climate Summit in Copenhagen in December 2009 is that the formally organized left was the first political actor that aggressively supported a police perspective on attacks against the main demonstration. They also refused to support any collective response to the repression. Instead the left wing parties used the occasion to gradually differ in their position towards the demonstrators, the police, the laws and the right wing government to compete with each other on harmless policy differences and avoiding doing politics to challenge in common power relations that curtails freedom.

International social democratic youth bloc December 12. Photo IUSY

In terms of members the formal left wing organisations and their sympathizers extremely outnumber those supporting left wing forces in the Climate Justice Action in Denmark. The two biggest besides trade unions are the social democrats with 50 000 members and the Socialist People’s party with 17 000 members. The third left-wing parliamentary party is Red Green Alliance with 2 000 members. Their position one could claim was such that they all could have used the occasion for strengthening their role as political opposition in Denmark supporting freedom of expression. They to a large extend did the opposite. How they did this can be described day by day.

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

Day by day reactions on repression December 12 to 18

Saturday 12th of December – Come safely to peaceful demonstration

Happy environmentalists on their way to the 12December initiative march. Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nios/ / CC BY-NC 2.0

Prior to the demonstration December 12 the organizers had stated that it would be safe. Come safely to peaceful demonstration was one title on an article about the preparations. The article continued: “On 12 December is the great popular demonstration on the streets of Copenhagen – with 499 organizations from over 60 countries. Despite the many participants should there be no difficulty – the organizers have a grip on security.

The people behind the demonstration on 12 December has done a great job to avoid confrontations with police.

’We believe that the demonstration is in good order. We have among other demonstration guides from the union, and we have held several meetings with police,’ says Knud Vilby, press spokesman for the demonstration on 12 December.

The demonstration is divided into different blocks, each receive a series of demonstration guides. Many of the guides are from the Construction workers union MS, who also stood for the demo Safety, at the EU summit in Copenhagen in 2002. Moreover, the organizers of the rally, “12th December Initiative “, held meetings with all the more radical and potentially violent groups that have promised high and holy to remain at rest.”

The two most left wing parliamentary parties were the first to stand up on the side of the police version of what have happened on Saturday evening and thus legitimating the arbitrary mass arrest during the December 12 demonstration. They together with the right wing xenophobian and climate sceptical Danish People’s Party could together put their immediate efforts in favour of the police while the right wing governmental parties and the social democrats except for the Conservative minister of Justice did not need to do anything as the left wing parties did their job. It is more convincing if the organizers of the December 12 demonstration supports the police views against the demonstrators than if the right wing governmental parties which were not among the organizers would have supported the police repression of the demonstrators.

First to act was the Red Green Alliance, the most left wing parliamentary party of Denmark born out of the former traditional communist party, a trotskyist party and left socialist party. This party issued a press release already on the same day of the demonstration with the title: The Red Green Alliance denounces riot in connection to climate demonstration. The official party message continued by beginning to state:

”Red Green Alliance condemn the group of “activists” who used the main climate demonstration as a cover for throwing stones at windows and police. Hence they assume a heavy responsibility, if people in the future abstain from participating in peaceful demonstrations, because one cannot know for sure what smaller groups might abuse these demonstrations for and what consequences this may have for ordinary demonstrators” said Per Clausen, climate spokes person for the Red Green Alliance.

In contrast to the claimed riot makers attacking the police with stones the press release continued by appraisal of  ”the impression of a great and beautiful manifestation of 100,000 participants” which according to the party ”showed us how we can involve many people in a way that sends a clear signal to those in power that we are many that require a fair and effective climate treaty.” and concluding:  ”This is the way to create positive change”

The press release also mentions in the end that: ”Unfortunately, there is strong evidence that many completely innocent demonstrators were detained by police and they arrested unnecessarily came to sit three to four hours on the icy ground. Together with that the police apparently played an active role in pushing troublemakers into the peaceful demonstration this points at a need for an investigation of the role of police.”

The most left wing parliamentary party here sets the tone by adopting a description of the course of events which puts the main emphasis on creating a picture of one group violently attacking the police and the police that unfortunately does mistakes. The identification with the police has gone so far that even the chronology is rearranged to fit into the picture of inherently violent troublemakers on one side, from the outset peaceful police that might do some mistakes on the other side but never have a role that needs to be put into brackets and finally demonstrators with the role to always be peaceful and send signals to those in power.

The correct order of the course of events was that no stone causing any harm to the police was thrown at all from the demonstration. What happened was that a police man was hit by a stone after the mass arrest had taken place, without being seriously hurt and at a long distance from were the mass arrest took place and far away from the demonstration. By changing the order of events main stream TV managed to make the massive police arrests more acceptable, a falsification of history in favour of the police that also the Red Green Alliance decided as important to endorse. A main stream right wing organisation could not have done it better.

Per Clausen. Press photo Mads Nissen

While Red Green Alliance was busy telling the world a story favouring a police perspective built on rumours arrested demonstrators were in deep trouble detained in the Valby special prison for climate protesters. Organisations and friends were worried about their comrades and members. The Socialist Justice party of Sweden belonging to CWI approached Friends of the Earth Sweden to get information on what was going on and what to do. 40 of their party activists from all over the world had been arrested. FoE Sweden decided to initiate a press conference together with as many concerned organisations that could be reached. Within less than half an hour it was possible to find out that any kind of organisation had their members in prison. Nature and Youth Sweden, the youth environmentalist organisation connected to the Conservation Society, Attac, Hare Krishna, Friends of the Earth from at least four countries etc. None had seen any attacks on the police or windows smashed were they had been walking in the demonstration. After a while some of the detained were released and we could meet them. One girl had a more than two inch long and deep broad wound on her wrist. The plastic straps had been put on so hard that first her hands got swollen and then when the police should cut them off they had to cut into her body to get it done. When it was possible for a few Swedish organisations to find out in such a short time about many cases there must be many more.

What was now needed was capacity to organize a press conference, a room, international press lists, ability to contact each other from our very different places were we stayed and have sufficient common message and people that had been arrested to make the press conference fruitful. The most relevant organizational actor to ask was the Danish demonstration coordinators. They if anyone had the self interest in protecting their demonstrators.

I went to Jörn Andersen, the organiser that had been most visible to international organisations during the whole preparatory process. Andersen represented the Climate Movement Denmark but was also a member of the Red Green Alliance. He had a key position as he also belonged to the International Socialist fraction in the party, a fraction linked to Socialist Worker´s Party in the UK who were the key organisers of the Global climate action days both December 2009 but also earlier. He if anyone ought to be able and interested in helping us. But he was the opposite.

The first thing he said was in a rejecting voice, did I have some facts. That I had a lot of facts about what had happened to quite a few demonstrators that were in need for solidarity and anti repression work by the demonstration coordinators did not impress upon him. He did not believe that the Danish coordinators would act and coordinate any solidarity work for the detained demonstrators. It was up to us and others to help ourselves the best we could. His party had already chosen without us knowing it and without Andersen informing us to act collectively in immediate support of false facts favouring the police. To make extreme demands on facts supporting the demonstrators was than appropriate to support the version they already had given to the press.

So Andersen’s prediction was probably correct. As the most well connected organisation in both Denmark and internationally the Red Green Alliance had chosen what side they were on and what role they claimed the demonstrators had in the immediate reaction. And to his own trotskyist fraction at the core of the whole Global Climate Action Day internationally it was more important in practice to be servile in relationship to the alliance partners than to act in solidarity with the invited demonstrators. After all the demonstrators go home afterwards but the allied main stream left wing parties and NGOs behind the tcktcktck campaign continues to be a force to take into consideration is the thinking behind this kind of reaction. To change such a first position from the Red Green Alliance needed careful attention and then there was not time for any solidarity work for those that had been degradingly treated by the police with the exception of the youth wing who protested at the prison but waited many days until the party had changed their first position to comment upon what had happened.

Klimaforum offered help instead, a computer could be borrowed at their office for some minutes, the press room could be used, the press people kindly asked by the press staff to leave a room or stay to listen to the press conference, a cell phones could be recharged at a luxury hotel by a member of a main stream Swedish television crew that were upset about the exaggerated police activity. In some way Danish Attac, Nature and Youth, Friends of the Earth Sweden and Socialist Justice party were able to get our act together precise in time in spite of cell phones lacking sufficient payment for getting on the air, internet connections getting down, email lists missing and arrested people already gone home. Somehow in spite of lack of systematic press contact work the press conference room was more than full when we started. Le Monde, L’Unita, Main stream TV from Denmark and Sweden and a lot of other media were there and the message got out.

Meanwhile had the political line by the Red Green Alliance paralysed the whole demonstration committee. It was now time for any Danish organiser of the demonstration to act on their own against the demonstrators and support the police to strengthen their perceived image among the population via mass media. Thus was the first Red Green Alliance press release followed by a statement from the justice affairs spokes person of the Socialist People’s Party, close to midnight when still many were in prison. On her party blog under the title What happened at the climate demonstration? Karina Lorentzen presented the same false story as Red Green Alliance, this time with an additional touch to exaggerate the story further. People had chosen to throw cobble stones at the police  – or others who may happen to be in firing line.

Her conclusions was clear: ”When such an incident occurs, I think we all have an expectation that the police intervene and stop such incidents. The alternative could be a smashed city, people randomly hurt or that the large demonstration was stopped and the important message to politicians not delivered. I therefore fully support that the police intervened. It meant that most of the demonstrators could continue peacefully to the Bella Center which they should be thanked for.”

Here we can see the socialist future: If we as organisers of a demonstration do not fully support police intervention we would see how the whole demonstration would need to stop, the whole city being destroyed, anyone being hurt, to not talk about the message to the politicians not delivered.

Lorentzen started her statement by describing how ”wildly fantastic” it was to walk with 100,000 other in the demonstration meeting among others a panda, a horse on a bicycle, a giant snowman, and many other funny contributions.

She also addressed after fully supporting the police intervening in a sudden questioning mood that ”Nearly a thousand people were detained. It is quite a lot and now it seems also as that the complaints from people who feel wrongly arrested, are coming in. Only 4 charges are currently been raised and it may indeed be said to be negligible among one thousand people. It could provide for a good reflection on whether the police have gone too far. The Socialist People’s Party have against this background asked the Minister to explain the course of events – now we have to get identified what happened and criticism should be used to work forward looking to ensure that innocent civilians in the future not will fall foul.”

Lorentzen than explained why her party had been against the new hooligan law package that gave the police the possibility to intervene as they did. The party warned against preventive arrests and would like to have ensured the possibility that citizens could get a chance to escape and avoid incurring a withdrawal.

The juridical spokes person of the Socialist People´s Party ends with making clear were her main sentiments are directed: ”My final reply must be that I’m fucking tired of activists who use violence and vandalism in order to draw attention to their cause. Frankly, there is no justification – and it’s wildly unsympathetic that you hide among peaceful demonstrators to perform your misdeeds. Stop it, it does not benefit the cause and it shifts focus in the most annoying way from what is important – namely a good, binding climate agreement.”

The immediate response on this blog post was sometimes overwhelmingly positive, but to a growing degree critical. “Your entire second paragraph in your blog post have a problem – primarily because the facts are not okay. We know that the black group would not ’break into the peaceful demonstration’ as you write but that they were pushed into the demonstration by the police as they would go from Højbro Plads, although it was not their intention to go along. Already here all your arguments go wrong and hence your conclusion ”you hide among peaceful demonstrators to perform your misdeeds”.

With the two most left wing parliamentary parties decided to act individually and siding with the police the rest of the Danish organisers chose the same method, avoid any collective responsibility and at times make their own isolated statement to the press to wash their hands. Knud Vilby, the spokes person of the demonstration. stated to the press that the police had acted disproportionate.

Everything was by now very clear enough to act collectively in defence of the rights of the demonstrators and against the escalation of repression. The two main newspapers in Denmark had revealed in their immediate reporting that it was the police that pushed unwilling Never trust a COP activists in black clothes into the main demonstration. These activists had published plans on the internet that they wanted to protests in the city centre and not walk with the march to the South. When this group of activists according to the advice by the police came to the demonstration some windows at the stock exchange, one at the foreign ministry and one at a bank were smashed along the demonstration route. 1 km from the stock exchange and more than 0,5 km from the bank more than 900 people were arrested and detained in a specially prepared prison half an hour after troubles started. Jyllandsposten, the biggest pro-governmental Danish daily reported that ”It was an apparently well-prepared and rehearsed policing plan, which resulted in one of Denmark’s largest mass arrests”. After the mass arrest almost 1 km away at Christiania were four cars burnt and a policemen was hit by a cobble stone without being seriously hurt.

In spite of that it was clear that the Danish state had made a massive attack on democratic rights and the police according to the pro-government daily apparently organized an ambush against the demonstration the organisers chose to act individually as persons or organisations. The strong wording among the organisers were still directed against the non existent people in the demonstrations that had thrown cobble stones hurting a policeman, not to protect their own demonstrators.

The left wing cover up

Solidarity banner at the front of the social democratic youth bloc in the 12 December demonstration. Photo IUSY

The numerous witnesses about the abuses during the mass arrests made it soon necessary to shift tactics among the Danish organisers of the demonstration. This was done in an odd way. If the first statements had been the result of the risk of not having the full picture the day after this was not the case anymore.

The way the 12 December Initiative acted was to avoid any collective responsibility and instead give free possibility to Danish organisations in the initiative to use the situation as they liked. It would last until January 7 for the main spokes person Knud Vilby of the 12 December initiative to make a stronger call for critical discussion of not the role of the organisers of the demonstration but how Denmark had acted. So many weeks after he promoted the basic police perspective story implanted by the left wing parties and media together keeping it alive, a story that directly links the police intervention with cobble stones against a policemen getting hurt. The ”fantastic experience … was only marred by members of the ’black block’ who behaved, in particular with throwing cobblestones in Christianshavn. One policeman was wounded, and I know from demonstrators – including a group of college students – that they were glad when the police intervened.”

Instead of reacting collectively against the politics of the Danish state to organize mass escalation of degrading treatment of demonstrators individualistic competition in promoting diverse policy proposals via mass media started. The extreme support by the most left wing parliamentary parties on Saturday of a police version making repression in a scale not seen in many countries against a demonstration understandable, had to be replaced by something else. And why not with a quarrel among all left wing parties on different policy proposals. Here each party could raise its profile making some discrete retreats from the mistakes the first day in a clever cover up operation in close relationship with the media.

Why should the reporters ask troublesome questions to the parties that organised the demonstration why they not together with others in the Danish 12 December Initiative collectively defended their demonstrators. It was so much more politically uninteresting to promote a politically powerless quarrel on policy details between individualistically acting parties. Popular movements and an interested public in many countries all over the world would really have been interested in why the Danish organisations that had invited 100 000 demonstrators to come to Copenhagen did not want to collectively defend them. That was the politically interesting question that the Danish media and the Danish organizations in unity avoided.

Sunday 13th of December

Waiting fr transport to the cages in the climate prison. Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kk/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

On Sunday December 13 the papers were full of reports how the Socialist People’s Party together with the Danish People’s Party were the strong supporters of the police action against the demonstration. Lorentzen from the Socialist People’s Party continued to back the police by stating to Ritzau, the Danish news agency, that it is difficult for the police to see who is violent and who is peaceful. “- Police have a very difficult task. When they block a street off, there might be some who may not have anything with this to do.”

“Both Socialist People’s Party (SF) and Danish People’s Party (DF) supports the Police”. Ritzau December 13
(National news agency)

Troublesome for the Socialist People’s Party was a growing negative reaction at both the blog of the spokes person of justice affairs and the facebook group of the party leader Villy Søvndal. Hundreds of people reacted often very strongly against the position of the party and many questioned their membership.

Later on Sunday Lorentzen issued a press release in which she expressed that it is wrong to arrest people before they have committed any wrongdoing. “When the hooligan package was adopted, we very much pointed at that preventive arrests are problematic because it is an interference before people have committed a crime. This means of course that you might get some in the net who have not intended to start a turmoil”.

In the Red Green Alliance it was not the spokes person for justice affairs that acted but the spokes person for climate Per Clausen who continued to intervene. In a press release on Sunday the party clearly distanced itself from any form of setting the streets on fire during the climate summit, and continued in the words of Clausen that:

”It is however also necessary that the demonstrators who not have a desire to set the streets on fire, have the opportunity to make actions. Unfortunately, it appears that police arbitrarily arrested trying to prevent this. We therefore require an examination of police use of preventive arrests and other use of force in connection with the climate summit. Particularly, we think the police attempt to prevent the press’s work must be investigated”

The original version mainly condemning people using the demonstration for throwing stones at the police had changed and the focus was now on fire in the streets and that it ”appeared” as if the police had stopped people from using their right to express themselves. For some reason the party shows special interest only in one group were they ask for extra attention in the investigation they want to be conducted, the press.

When it seemed as a slight difference between the position of the Red Green Alliance and the Socialist People’s Party emerged Clausen was not late in using it. In the press he stated that the competing left wing party was embarrassing as it did not take a clear distance from unreasonable police preventive arrests of people who have done nothing illegal. It is important both to distance oneself from violence and vandalism and the police state, he concluded.

“Broad political support for the police”. DR, (Danish public service media).

The Social liberal non left wing party in opposition to the right wing government also expressed their concerns. They accused the government for the law that had permitted the police to make the mass arrest: This law ”made it easy for the police to detain people preventively. So before they ever have done anything.” The spokes person of the social liberal party continued about the law ”We were violently opposed at the time, and we are still.”

So what many left wingers would describe as a bourgeoisie party made the opposite to the left wing parties in three ways. Firstly attacking the government and not the police or other oppositional parties to the left. Secondly focusing on that it is wrong to detain innocent people. Thirdly using emotional wording as violently not from a police perspective but rather from a democratic giving emphasis on the concern the party had from the beginning and now even more had against the law and its consequences.

This made it obvious that it was possible to mobilise a broad alliance far beyond the left wing political culture to defend the democratic rights against the new mass arrest practice. The problem was not that it was impossible in Denmark to formulate the basis for collectively denouncing the attack on the integrity of the 12 December initiative mass protest. The problem was that both the left wing parties and the Danish organizing committee were unwilling to mobilise any collective response but preferred individualistic and disperse reactions.

During Sunday almost a whole demonstration was mass arrested on the way to the harbour were a non-violent action had been announced.

Monday 14th of December

“Socialist People’s Party (SF) wriggles in the case of mass arrests”, Politiken (Social Liberal press)

The course of events threatened the position of the Socialist People’s Party which presents itself as both environmentally more concerned than other parties as well as more concerned about democracy, most often also with social justice concerns. The conservative press noted with some malicious joy correctly that many of the arrested demonstrators were members of the party that now had supported the police in their action against the members. In the middle of the day on Monday Lorenzen made one more press release to explain herself with the title: SF supports neither mass arrests of innocent, or inhumane treatment of detainees. The emphasis in the beginning is now on how the party ”fought a brave battle against both ’the Hooligan package’ and preventive arrests, which are the tools used by  Police on Saturday.”

The emphasis also have changed in such a way that it is now the government rather than the police or activists which is criticized. The blame is: ”first and foremost on the responsible government politicians …. With their constraints and the Hooligan package they have whipped up a mood and clearly signalled to police that they should keep quiet in the streets at any cost. Even at the cost of freedom of assembly.”

She continues: ”we must focus on the perpetrators, rather than uniquely focusing on the police, who simply carried out what resembles a political order. Thus it is the police who carried out many arrests, but it is the government and the Danish People’s Party, which has shed the bullets to arrest disproportionately many innocent people.”

The rest of the press release is understanding the problems of the police when 100.000 are on the streets and ”mistakes” are bound to occur. It is the law which has a too ”broad scope” that is the problem and to this end the party demands an explanation from the police and the minister of Justice. She ends by a more strong emotional language:

”I would also like to stress that it was undoubtedly necessary for the police to act against those who threw the firecracker and cobbles in the middle of an otherwise fantastic and peaceful demonstration. This behaviour is in no way an expression of democratic sentiment. We have also previously seen some cities being totally devastated by the violent protesters: Berlin, Seattle and many more. Copenhagen should not be in this row.

Therefore I can not stress enough that we can and must take a deep distance from violent activists. And I’m in short, wildly offended that firecracker throwing troublemakers allows themselves to interfere with the ordinary demonstrators”

It was now necessary for the popular party leader Villy Søvndal to intervene. Two hours after the spokes person made her third statement after the demonstration with shifting focus and different content he wrote on his facebook page under the heading: Nice demonstration – unfortunately too many arrests.

He started by stating that ”we should be happy and proud that we can hold such a demonstration in Copenhagen … that showed Danish involvement in the fight for a fair and ambitious climate agreement” He continued that this impression ”should not be destroyed by a few troublemakers.”

”From my side it can not be said clearly enough: I will by no means accept that a small group of black clad thugs try to create unrest and violence in the shelter of a great peaceful and family-friendly demonstration. For me, democracy is that people can participate in demonstrations with their small children without fear of being recruited into street fighting and stone throwing.”

He continued: ”It is the police’s task to ensure peace and order. And therefore it is of course entirely appropriate that the police intervene if there are people who are rioting. But having said that, I also think that it seems out of proportion to arrest 1,000 people, when you subsequently only bring a handful of them to the court. It is of course quite untenable that the police let people sit for hours on the cold asphalt, so that people pee in their pants, etc. It must be possible to do it better.”

Søvndal concluded by criticising the government and stating that ”My position is that the hooligan package should be abolished under a future government.”

This was news. Before the Socialist People’s Party had voted against the new law package proposed by the government but not promised that if they came to power they would abolish the law, as the Social democrats. Contrary to the social liberal party and the Red Green Alliance they voted against the law package not on principle but to gain some attention while maintaining a wait and see position. Now the party leader had decided that it was the time to declare a more stead fast opposition while the emotional rhetoric still was much in support of the police and mainly directed against activist accused of intending to use the demonstration for street fighting.

During the day the No border demonstration to protect the rights of climate and other refugees went along without problem. In the night the police intervened at Christiania were Climate Justice Action had a debate followed by a party. The police stormed into Christiania throwing tear gas and arrested people meeting some resistance.

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

Social democratic youth bloc in the 12 december demonstration.

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

Tuesday was the time for the third left wing party to intervene, the Social Democrats. They did not see any reason to make much of public statements in the press before this as their positions on policing is very close to that of the Socialist People’s Party. But now their cooperation partner had gone too far.

The press could report that ”There are cracks in the otherwise close cooperation between Social democrats and Socialist People’s Party, when it comes to policing during the climate summit. While the chair of the Socialist people’s Party Søvndal has attacked the police handling during Saturday’s big climate demonstration in Copenhagen, a completely different message comes from the Social Democrats’ political spokesman, Henrik Sass Larsen.”

“We have confidence that the police acted properly. There is not something I would criticize the police for, ” says Henrik Sass Larsen.

Also justice affairs spokesperson Karen Haekkerup distance herself to Søvndal’s criticism.

”The police have done well. They ensured that the vast majority could implement a very popular, festive demonstration, without it being destroyed by the types here, ”

When asked if Søvndal do not understand this, says Hækkerup:

“I will not give character to Søvndal. I just think that we must take care to give police peace while they work and to show that Danes are behind them when they stand here in the extremely difficult working situation where they must provide security to the climate summit, and so that Copenhagen is not set on fire. ”

“Social democrats (S) and Socialist People’s Party (SF) disagree on police critique”, Berlingske (Conservative press)

The pecking order among the left wing parties all speaking at the demonstration was established. The one with the most privileged speaking slot at the best place and time for media attention at the demonstration, the Social democrats, most strongly and consistently in favour of the police attack on the demonstration. The two other left wing parties with less privileged speaking slots, in the beginning in favour of a police perspective making the police attack on the demonstration understandable and then in different degrees opposing the mass arrest and partly the police perspective. All avoiding initiating a collective response from the Danish organisers on the repressive politics carried out by the Danish state against climate protesters in Copenhagen. This new pecking order made it possible for the Red Green Alliance to more and more take the side of the climate protesters.

The most interesting thing with this day is how it is now revealed the way a left wing party and maybe all of them think strategically. One reason why the social democrats do not defend the demonstrators in the manifestation they themselves are collectively responsible for as organisers and among the privileged speakers is explicitly stated. It is not the way the police act against the demonstrators which is the main interest for this party, but the situation the police have when in general they ”must provide security to the climate summit”. A task presented not as related to the demonstration in the past but as a task in the present as the protests at Bella Center are not over.

Tadzio Müller distributing Turbulence at the 12 December demonstration. Photo Avenirclima.org

On Tuesday also the escalation of extreme repression of a new kind not seen for a hundred years under normal circumstances in Europe was put into practice. Police arrested the spokesman of the Climate Justice Action, Tadzio Müller, after he had held a press conference at the Bella Center with several NGOs and organizations.

This kind of targeted arrests was once common in attempting at stopping popular movements. But the experience showed in the long run that it was counter productive. By conflating the role of spokes person for a non-violent action with the possibility that someone in the non-violent action other than the spokes person might harm a policemen the state could put many people in prison. At the same time this was practical in short term as the opinion of the movement got stiffed or silenced and was an effective way to criminalize freedom of expression. But as the underlying causes still existed this caused even more unrest as well as undermined the whole rule of law with its principles of individual responsibility. Thus this extremely repressive politics had to be reconsidered.

Denmark reintroduced this state repression of freedom of expression a hundred years after it was seen as an unacceptable act against freedom and counterproductive way to postpone the solution of social conflicts escalating unrest instead of promoting political solutions. This is remarkable. How can a nation become so democratically backward that such state acts against freedom of expression reemerge without any collective response?

Line Barfod, Press photo Mads Nissen

The Red Green Alliance issued a press release with a protest. That was about all. Line Barfod, the spokes person on justice affairs of the party stated: Arrest of spokesperson is an error.

”- It is quite wrong to arrest the spokesperson from an avowedly non-violent organization. Were are we heading, if we begin to arrest the spokespersons from legal and non-violent political groups.

– Police should instead maintain dialogue with non-violent activists to ensure that their protest tomorrow will take place without violence from either activists or police, as also the activists want.

It is a very unfortunate signal to the world we send in those days. First mass arrests of hundreds of innocent protesters and now arrests of the spokespersons of the protest movement. It does not belong in a democracy.”

The Red Green Alliance also protested this day against NGOs being thrown out of the Bella Center:

It is totally unacceptable that NGOs are largely expelled from the Bella Center on Friday, when it expects to publish the outcome of the climate summit. The consequence is that critical voices will be gone and the world’s politicians will have the stage to himself and have the ability to sell a bad result as a success, says Per Clausen, climate spokes person for the red Green Alliance.

Environmental and global justice organisations made a last attempt at confronting the growing repression. Friends of the Earth Sweden, Climate Movement Denmark and Attac Denmark initiated a debate at Klimaforum with representatives from all continents in the South inviting all Danish parliamentary parties to come and listen to the views of international guests and give their opinion on repression during the COP15. Red Green Alliance turned up and the social liberal party would have liked to come but had problems on such a short notice. No other party was interested. The initiative to challenge Danish organisations to contribute to collective efforts against the repression ended in the same way as earlier, by individual statements and no commitment to act or even try to act collectively neither from a party or other formal Danish organisations.

Activist and police on agriculture protest day. Photo

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

The protest action on agriculture organised by CJA, Via Campesina, Friend of the Earth, A SEED and others went well.

Wednesday 16th of December – “No soft feelings”

This was the day of the Reclaim power action. Targeted arrests continued against two spokes persons Nicolas Haeringer and Tannie Nybøe of CJA before the call for making the push at Bella center against the police lines were made to establish a People’s Assembly together with people coming from the inside. Mass arrests of almost a whole so called Green bloc took place at Örestad and the bike bloc also had great difficulties. But thousands marched in the main blue bloc steadfast towards Bella center.

In the midst of the preparations for the inside Reclaim power action to walk out the Socialist People’s Party leader Søvndal is interviewed at the Bella center by Jyllandsposten, the biggest and the most right wing daily of Denmark. He supports tough behaviour against violent activists, but called the police preliminary efforts too “imprecise”

“There is ‘no soft feelings’ against the violent elements who come here. It is important that police bank them when encountering them and the police must not be criticized for this. Rather, it is a prerequisite for peaceful demonstrations to be arranged. In return, they are not good at hitting accurately”

Reclaim power action from the inside encounter with the police. Photo Avenirclima.info

Soon a historically new step in the repression against popular movements takes place nearby were the Socialist party leader was interviewed. The Danish police starts to violently bank UN accredited delegates from movements that are participating in the Reclaim Power action from the inside to stop them from reaching those coming from the outside. It is the first time to my knowledge that officially UN accredited participants are beaten by police of the host country when they try to leave the official conference venue.

A People’s Assembly is finally successfully established by those on the outside surrounded almost completely by police and finally a march together to the city centre in good mood ends the mass action. In total 260 people are arrested and detained in the special climate prison in Valby during the day, some 30 pepper sprayed and 10 wounded among the activists. No reports of any harm to policemen or anything else is reported.

The youth wing of the right wing dominating governmental party, Venstres Ungdom, also expressed their concern about what had happened during the summit. The spokes person for Justice affairs of VU, Ida Swan Grevlund, issued a statement on the homepage of the organisation under the title ”The Hooligan package consequences for legal certainty”

”The 12th of December 2009 will be remembered as the day when the rule of law and its basic principles had to give way for each individual policemen arbitrary assessment of how extensively the ’law and order’ were respected. This was the day where up to 700 demonstrators during the climate summit were arrested and taken to the temporary COP15 prison cells where the detainees had to adapt to many hours of waiting behind bars in appalling conditions.

Some of the demonstrators were certainly arrested on a valid basis – it is totally unacceptable to throw paving stones and attacking police to get a political message across. But there was also an unnecessarily high number of innocent people among those arrested as the hooligan package allows the police to make the so-called preventative arrests. It has thus become legal to detain a person for up to 12 hours, only if the police deem that he possibly could jeopardize safety. Man is no longer innocent until proven otherwise, however, you are guilty even before you have done anything criminal.

It is very problematic that the police have increased powers to make far-reaching interventions in the individual’s personal freedom. Detention, as an administrative arrest of course is, requires considerable control and security. An arbitrary discretion from a tired cop is not enough if the rule of law should apply.

There have been several examples where the government has breached the constitution and the rule of fundamental parts to accommodate “’special security challenges.’ Here one can mention for instance terrorist legislation and now the hooligan package. Liberal youth do not think you can combat threats by restricting the individual’s constitutional rights. The end does not justify the means, because no situation should be able to put democracy in a state of emergency. The government’s goal with the hooligan package is to maintain security during the climate summit – but security is in no way created by undermining the rule of law.”

This statement received immediate positive comments from fellow companions:
– I could not agree more – super article!
– It is elegantly written! Unfortunately it seems that the popular mood is happy about the actions, although every third are genuine opponents to the package.
– Frederick: I have heard it and it can be only explained by the fact that some want to give up freedom for security .. It is incomprehensible to us liberals.

The continued comments differed from what happened to the Socialist People’s Party blog posts. The discussion was clearly focused on facts and principles rather than the populistic tone of both the socialist party spokes persons and many of their commentators in opposing directions although of course also here existed discussions to the point. With the statements from the social liberal party and now the more right wing liberal youth it became even more hard to understand why the left wing parties had chosen a far less coherent and at times police perspective in the way of responding to the repression.

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

The party leader Søvndal announces that he will eat breakfast with the Socialist president Evo Morales from Bolivia on his facebook blog. Søvndal especially emphasises that Morales is a winner, someone that is clearly victorious against the right wing in the recent elections. He very much looks forward to meet this winner.

The Red Green Alliance politics now more firm in the hands of the spokes person Barfod for justice affairs do not either take part in collective action but makes something out of a response from the Conservative minister of justice on the hooligan law package. The minister had responded to earlier critical questions from Barfod that ”Of course, detainees protestors would be allowed to go to the bathroom and get something to drink”. Relatives were also assured that they should be informed about the detention. ”It is in sharp contrast to the situation during the great peaceful demonstration on 12th of December, when 968 were detained.” Barfod stated in a press release.

Anti-repression demonstrators from CGT, Spain (No other carried organization banners). Photo Avenirclima.info

Others are more involved in collective organizing of protests against repression including the imprisoned Climate Justice Action spokes persons and the heavy crack down on both the inside and outside Reclaim power action, issues that Evo Morales addressed as speaker at the UN Conference but something Søvndal stays out of doing something about. In front of Christiansborg a fast organized vigil with protesters stating free the political prisoners and     takes place in the afternoon. The action is small, the media interest big.

At Klimaforum a seminar on popular movement cooperation against repression started. It was organized by Friends of the Earth Sweden, Climate Collective and others. A problem was that the Climate Collective preparing the seminar all were in prison.

At Valby hall not far from the climate prison thousands of people gathered to hear the Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez and Morales speak. They mainly addressed climate issues and the need for socialism but also strongly protested against the police repression in Copenhagen. The Danish left wing organisers continued to avoid any collective response to the repression and support the demonstrators as well as the opinion of Morales and Chavez. The biggest indoor mass meeting during the whole climate summit perfectly placed for making a call for action against the repression of the climate justice movement was not used for this at all. The Danish left did see no need in supporting international solidarity in spite of that they had all the chances.

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

December 18 march against repression. Photo here and below: Avenirclima.org

Climate Justice Action and Climate Justice Now! organized a demonstration supported by all the present international popular movements against the repression, the mass arrests and with the demand to release the climate prisoners. 1,500 people participated. The Danish formal organisations were still as passive as ever continuing to avoid collective responsibility for protecting the rights of those that had marched on their invitation in Copenhagen.

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 self criticism

After the Climate summit it was time for reflection. It was started in a broader scale by Knud Vilby, the spokes person of the 12th December initiative. On the 6th of January his open letter on Denmark’s freedom and legal situation was published in the daily Information were he had been editor in chief in the 1970s.

His attempt was made in the by now typical Danish way to act regarding the assault on democratic rights during the summit. It was done on individual basis and made no appeal  for collective responsibility from the Danish organization that had invited 100 000 people to come and protest and then being degradingly treated by the police. Instead the former spokes person of the 12th of December initiative Knud Vilby addressed ”Denmark”.

On the 7th of January in an open letter with the title ”An open letter on Denmark’s freedom and legal situation”. He stated ”We must discuss the mass arrests, the police new judiciary, and the exaggerated reactions to peaceful, non-violent civil disobedience in Wonderful Copenhagen” and continue:

”Dear all
We need to have a thorough conversation in our society about the way Denmark changed in December.
• Huge popular climate demonstrations were – at a very few exceptions – very peaceful, but nevertheless resulted in 2,000 arrests or detentions. This has never happened before.
• The distinction between violent and nonviolent civil disobedience effectively disappeared when the police and courts responded with the greatest violence against the non-violent actions.
• The gap between the judicial and executive power faded from sight, and the distinction between guilty and innocent blurry as police condemned many innocent temporary imprisonment.

If we consciously forget what happened, and without discussion goes into 2010 with the same laws, authorizations and attitudes, we say yes to that the most authoritarian form of authority will have even more power next time it becomes crucial.”

The letter opens up for a much needed self critical discussion among Danish organizations and their international cooperation partners not only regarding the repression of the December 12 demonstration but also against Climate Justice action and other protests during the summit.

There are some clear limitations. That still the false story of cobble stone throwing black dressed activists having wounded a policemen which made demonstrators welcoming the police intervention is promoted is one such limitation. The other is the elitist and state centric view.

It becomes clear why many formal Danish organizations lack interest in being accountable. They believe in leadership and that the main focus should be the state and the laws. Thus Vilby states about CJA:

”The next major action was the Climate Justice Action’s action. It was to bring critical demonstrators with critical delegates together at the Bella Center area. CJA had put everything openly forward. It was civil disobedience, but peaceful and non-violent. Personally, I was however very worried that protesters would drop peaceful unity when police arrested a day before one of the leaders, a known moderate German CJA activist. It was contrary to common sense and the advice that the police had received as part of the dialogue with them. It became even worse when one arrested two young Danish CJA responsible leaders. It was e.g. Stine Gry, which was part of 12.dec. planning and who had collaborated and informed fully open. She was rewarded with phone tapping and imprisonment.

Responsible leaders will ensure that civil disobedience does not lead to violence. They ensure that the goal is not destroyed by the fact that activists are angry and frustrated and goes berserk. But despite the arrests, it succeeded. The only violence we saw in the media were police swinging their sticks. The protesters were disciplined. Although the leadership was sent to jail, they kept themselves to the adopted virtually entirely peaceful program.”

Vilby and many formal Danish organizations do not trust the people. To them it is a surprise that people without leaders can still hold on to the main goal of an action. One can hope that some of them now will learn, at least Vilby seems willing to.

The greater problem is the focus on the state while the rest of the people is supposed to behave under responsible leadership. Vilby address the division of power between judicial and executive powers and a vague ”Denmark” which somehow is supposed to put things in order until next time. He rightly not only criticizes the government but also much of the opposition unfortunately without being at all specific.

Mass arrest at the Amagerbrogade four hours on the ground. Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kk/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

But the most immediately responsible is not criticized, the Danish 12 of December demonstration committee. Democracy is not only coming to life via government and political party opposition resulting in laws and implementations by executive organs. It is even more nurtured by all agreements in daily life ruled by written or unwritten laws maintaining commons of different character. We meet and we agree upon things and build trust.

The Danish 12 of December Initiative have invited us to demonstrate and it is their duty to protect every participant and the integrity of the whole demonstration. Not to use the 100 000 voices for their individualistic interests and promote the branding of their own organization while turning their back at the whole collective responsibility as quick as they get the chance to find new ways of branding themselves.

That the state can behave extreme is not totally new. What is historic about Copenhagen is that the organizations of the host country supported the police against the demonstrators in a demonstration that they themselves had organized. It is the duty of all demonstration committees that have any decent sense of democracy to collectively respond to the kind of massive repression against a demonstration which was enacted by the police in Copenhagen.

Dogs used by the police inside the kettle at Amagerbrogade.  Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kk/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

It is also their duty to denounce those organizers of the demonstration that uses the opportunity to support the police perspective and the mass arrests thus escalating repression further.

The state has as we know many different limitations in living up to democratic standards based on equal rights for all. Already the geographic limitations makes this obvious in a case when those states that emits most green house gases are those that have economic power to marginalize the voices and the rights of impoverished countries that carries the main burden of climate change as well as many other effects of unequal distribution of wealth and environmental destruction.

Thus it is important to demand democratic behavior of everyone in society, especially when voluntary agreeing to cooperate and inviting demonstrators from the whole world as the Danish committee have been doing. This demand for accountability has the advantage of being much easier to fulfil. Danish organizations signing the agreement behind the 12th of December demonstration should have not problem at all to come to a collective decision in majority or consensus on what happened and how to respond to repression including demanding an answer from those organizations that chose to support police perspectives and mass arrests.

The days when Danish organizations can continue to act individually and maintain their democratic respect among organizations and movements in the rest of the world are over. The Climate summit was not an internal Danish business, it was of importance for the whole world. But it was only Danish organizations that fully could prevent repression and stop it from escalating. They have utterly failed to do so and instead used the opportunity for competing individualistically with each other with those Danish organizations that was elected to have speaker at the demonstration at center stage. Instead of being democratic and call a meeting and decide collectively how to respond to the repression of movements from the whole world the Danish organizations behave as branding actors on a market in their full right to do as they pleased.

This is to betray both democracy and a strong climate movement. The discussion in Denmark Vilby calls for on state behavior is necessary, but first we need a collective democratic effort to see who fulfilled their plight to the foreign and other guests and who did not. Maybe it would even be possible to find out why formally democratic Danish organizations when put to the test refused to use democratic means and take their responsibility as supporters and organizers of the demonstration to collectively counteract the state repression against their manifestation to which they had invited people trusting that the Danish organizers were reliable.

It is about time that we as movements starts to make code of conducts when cooperating and strongly criticize those organizations that formally claim they are part of the collective effort but do not follow the rules in self interest to brand their own organization. Democracy is here and now, reclaimed all the time in our daily lives, at the workplace, at home, when we cooperate in smaller or larger scale. It is not something as Red Green Alliance stated about the demonstration, a question about acting in a way” that sends a clear signal to those in power”. To instrumentalize participants in a demonstration or other form of movement cooperation stating that the only thing that matters is to ask others to do something is not democracy, it is elitism. When it is combined with refusal to collectively counteract repression it is anti democratic and paves the way for an authoritarian state.

The attempts by Vilby to open up for a self critical debate and the positions of organizations as the social liberal party, young right wing liberals and climate justice action activists in Denmark shows that there are forces and possibilities to learn from the course of events in Copenhagen. But we cannot come further without that concerned organizations in Denmark and abroad collectively takes responsibility, investigate in how the collective solidarity especially from Danish organizations failed and decide how this should be addressed in the future.

Especially important is it that those Danish organizations that had the key possibility to do something but did not are called into question by their national and international partners. It is especially three left wing parties, with important fraction five political organizations, that have failed to support collective solidarity and at times supported a police perspective or even fully support the police intervention. It is the Social democratic party, the Socialist People’s Party and the Red Green Alliance were both fractions of the 4th international and the Internationalist Socialist allied with the Socialist Worker’s Party in Britain play a crucial role in the mass activities during the Climate summit.

We need to know if these parties and other parties are willing to learn and change their individualistic behavior at COP15 in the future or if they will continue to constitute a threat to protest movements also after Copenhagen. We need to know if their international sister parties agree to what their cooperation partners did in Copenhagen and if one can expect the same behavior from them in the future or if they are willing to jointly with the peasant, environmental and the whole climate justice movement confront repression and criminalization of popular movements.

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

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 way the Danish left assess Copenhagen

Socialist People’s Party SF balloon competing with Greenpeace snowman for attention at the December 12 climate march. Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/johan_nielsen/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

How is then the left discussing what happened during the summit? The Social democrats keeps totally quiet as if their full support of the police is sufficient. This can be compared to the Social democrats in Sweden who after the riots at the EU Summit in Gothenburg 2001 initiated an official inquiry chaired by a former Social democratic prime minister and a former chair of the conservative party concluding with both strong criticism of the police and a call for an understanding of new horizontal forms for organizing protests in contemporary society.

The Socialist People’s Party adds an endless amount of new policy proposals to their list of branding themselves as clamping down on disorder and violence, in early January by proposing that it should become forbidden to visit terrorist related web site. Down loading material from these sites should be regarded the same way as child pornography. A proposal applauded by the Danish People’s Party but about nobody else to the right or left in Danish politics. The Socialist People´s Party is together with the Danish People´s Party the winner in Danish politics. In the municipal elections in November last year they gained 7,7 percentage at the cost of Social democrats and the social liberals but also to some degree of the Red Green Alliance.

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

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

Tord Björk | Uncategorized | Sunday, March 14th, 2010

Equally interesting is the way the radical non-parliamentary left react to the Copenhagen experience. On the Modkraft.dk web site the centre stage in assessing the direct action is taken by Rene Karpantschof. He stated that COP15 activities was not a new Seattle, rather a Waterloo for the activist strategies that met with an effective and well-prepared police.

He started by claiming that ”Only the peaceful mobilization had partial success. The radical part led to a defeat of Waterloo format that will be felt long time to come.”

He stated about the ”Massive demonstration on December 12 resembles an immediate success. With its up to 100,000 participants” He continued though: ”At the Bella Center many experienced, however, a sort of anticlimax. No political statement or action which could translate the huge crowd to further pressure on the negotiators inside the center.”

December 12 at the Bella Center. Photo tcktcktck campaign.

”Normally, a march of the format there appeared the 12th December impress. This time, however, it was all sorts of decision makers who would be affected, and as we now know, neither led the peaceful demonstration or pressure from numerous NGOs to any climate agreement.”

So, only partial success for the peaceful strategy.

The rest of his argument is worth quoting in full as it is one of the few left wing assessments taking the direct action seriously:

”Instead, one could, as the world famous Naomi Klein, rely on the more radical activities. She did so in view of the alliances which the non-violent disobedience movement organized in the Climate Justice Action, CJA, had built up.

With an international network of environmental groups, human rights organizations and representatives of indigenous peoples, and an alliance with UN delegates NGOs and politicians from the third world did CJA plan to storm the Bella Center area, 16 December. An action designed to create space and listening to millions of disgruntled, which Klein thought could be ‘a new Seattle.’

So a full impact event like the protests in 1999, then giving birth to a new global movement.

There must be more than very much to shake the powers like the U.S. and China. On the other hand: Repeated huge demonstrations and uncontrollable tumult scenes all over the world is a thought about something that could make an impression. At least on the governments of Europe.

At least 10,000 rebel demonstrators would have been needed in Copenhagen for this. A number actually not inconceivable, given the international influx and that too many Danish, especially young people, see the climate as one of the greatest threats. In addition, many have low confidence in state leaders’ capacity, so the radical activists had good cards on their hand.

Thursday and Friday the 17th and 18 December it was clear that the UN meeting resulted in nothing. In the same day the city was filled with state leaders who among other things should eat dinner at Christiansborg.

It was here that thousands of outraged people could have flowed into the center of Copenhagen to spontaneous noisy demonstrations and other protests. If so, the new movement, Naomi Klein imagined had materialized.

But it did not.

For the radical activists had during the summit’s first weeks experienced failure on failure. One did not get inside at some places, one had not blocked anything and one did not disrupt or upset anyone.

The police consistently struck so they were in full control. And the result was a pervasive demoralization, discouragement and frustration, which held all the potential supporters from taking to the streets and join.

There are many explanations. The activists had e.g. not taken any tactical consequence of the Danish police already before the climate summit had learned to handle the very controllable and predictable disobedience actions.

When Danish activists in the autumn tried to close a coal-fired power station at Amager they made an unsuccessful assault against a well-armed police force. Nonetheless, attempts were exactly the same against a historic police posse in December.

Openly advertised and non-violent disobedience actions have a certain legitimacy, but in practice only a chance if they mobilize many more participants than the cops.

In the context of climate summit little was done to mobilize Danish sympathizers. Copenhagen was not plastered with posters with the precise time and place for the various actions.

If one looked at the Internet among the usually English-language action calls, there was sometimes confusion about which actions actually started. And the most ambitious action at the Bella Center, 16 December started by Tårnby Station at. 8 in the morning. A relatively difficult accessible place and a time which in itself deters many from emerging.

The activists also made it difficult for themselves with the unrealistic tactical objectives. From day one actions were presented that wanted to penetrate and block one place after another, and nothing of this was achieved, thus creating an atmosphere of failure.

In addition, many Danes seem unsure and scared of the hooligan package and police force, and then Danish activists largely disappeared from the first action, the stage was left to a few hundred foreigners outside chance against the police.

The police however had significant success in demonstrating their willingness to strike and their ability to control the streets. For example, 12 December where the militants had announced that they would gather at Højbro Plads and actions in the inner city instead of going into massive demonstration of that day.

One can wonder that the superior police forces not only surrounded the few equally militant. Instead, police drove them into the big demonstration and then, since a few of them predictably broke windows and attacked police, carried out up to 1,000 preventive arrests.

I do not know why the police acted so, but the result was certainly underlined strongly that everyone on the streets in those days risked imprisonment. Combined with the failure of the actions it had a deterrent effect.

The courage of the militants disappeared completely when the police two days later stormed Christiania stressing that the police were capable of anything.

The Danish police have been clever to be flexible and use ushers in an efficient manner, which targeted to address the crucial situations. Yes, it is sometimes violent and ruthless. But such is the game and it showed no signs activists to learn from.

CJA project, 16 December was a predictable onslaught just where police stood ready, and with it far too small attendance of approx. 2000 participants were probably defeat. And with a form of action, which includes participants in the street in nine cold hours, there were no more strength left.

In short: As the climate summit failure became clear on 17 and 18 December and an uproar among indignant thousands could have filled the streets of Copenhagen, there were largely silence. No movement was created.”

Karpantschof is interesting in the way he puts emphasis on the physical part of politics. Why mobilise far out in a suburb against the official venue with the aim to unite delegates from the inside from both governments and movements with activists from the outside organizing a long People´s Assembly when one can mobilise easier at a gala dinner in the city centre with only top level politicians and make some noise for a short while? His approval of the demonstration as a success is also mainly in terms of numbers. Not even the failure of the demonstration committee to defend its participants is regarded as interesting to note. Instead the mass arrests in the December 12 demonstration more is used as an example of unclever activists.

Police at work on Amagerbrograde putting people to the ground. Photo:

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

Karpantschof belongs to the generation of house occupants and radical autonom activists were many became the core of the anti capitalist global justice movement generation. Some of them now have key positions in the Red Green Alliance, others are still belonging to the non-parliamentary left as academicians or activists. Why this global justice movement generation failed to intervene constructively in the preparations for the climate summit like they successfully did in 2002 is interesting to note. On the contrary many of them acted ignoring the need for international solidarity. Why risk something when it is more safe to stand aside and look on what happens from a distance and afterward make it clear how clever the more realistic part of the non-parliamentary Danish left were than those that engaged in CJA.

One key factor in understanding this part of the left is its extreme adjustment to single issue orientation, if possible linked with general anti capitalistic slogans. Quite a few of the global justice movement generation unwilling to help the COP15 mobilization were at the same time fully involved in the mobilization for Church asylum for refugees. This issue could very well fit into the political mobilization during the climate summit. The social liberal party made a statement one of the first days of COP15 focusing on the issue of climate refugees. But the left wingers in the Church asylum movement were unwilling to. This movement is to a large extent unpolitical, as many initiatives in Denmark it is no longer political change which is at the core of specific actions, but to ask for Denmark to once more become decent. To link the question of refugees from Iraq and thus from an oil war were Denmark was an aggressor was not something the left wingers in the Church asylum movement wanted to happen. Nor any formal Danish environmental, peasant or other organization. In Denmark different policy areas must be kept separate unless uncontrollable disorder will emerge in politics.

Thus both the five left wing party organizations as well as portions of the non-parliamentary left all assess the mass demonstration as at least a partial success while the rest of the actions are paternalistically approved as they surprisingly were non-violent but all in all rather unimportant. All avoid addressing the historic failure of the left in collectively addressing the repression of a scale and a character that is of importance to the future of freedom of expression and popular movements in all parts of the world. The left have set an example under conditions that were not extreme in terms of weapons used by the police or violence but in terms of targeted arrests of spokes persons and mass arrests of anyone on the streets. This example of left wing neglecting the integrity of the demonstration and even companionship with the state needs an explanation.

Tord Björk

Content

The COP15 promising ALBA mass meeting

The lost left wing opportunity

How the left supported the police against demonstrators in Copenhagen

Day by day reactions on repression December 12 to 18:

Saturday 12th of December – Come safely to peaceful demonstration

The left wing cover up

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

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

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

Wednesday 16th of December – “No soft feelings”

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

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

Danish self-criticism

Why is the left promoting police perspectives?

Danish political claustrophobia

The way the Danish left assess Copenhagen

The paternalistic Red Green Alliance

Trotskyist climate heroes without guts

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

From anti neoliberal left to authoritarian state-media governance left

Other material:

12 December Initiative – huge success or background for branding?

Open letter on Denmark’s freedom and legal situation

The whole world on trial

The Fall of the Bella Wall: Power Reclaimed

From anti neoliberal left to authoritarian state-media governance left

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Demonstration marching towards Bella Center 2002

Confronting the police at Bella Center 2002

Black bloc in the main demonstration 2002

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

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

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

Photo Avenirclima.info

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

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

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

Reclaim Power action december 16. Photo:

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

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

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

Police at Reclaim Power action December 16. Photo:

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

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

Tord Björk

Content

The COP15 promising ALBA mass meeting

The lost left wing opportunity

How the left supported the police against demonstrators in Copenhagen

Day by day reactions on repression December 12 to 18:

Saturday 12th of December – Come safely to peaceful demonstration

The left wing cover up

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

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

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

Wednesday 16th of December – “No soft feelings”

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

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

Danish self-criticism

Why is the left promoting police perspectives?

Danish political claustrophobia

The way the Danish left assess Copenhagen

The paternalistic Red Green Alliance

Trotskyist climate heroes without guts

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

From anti neoliberal left to authoritarian state-media governance left

Other material:

12 December Initiative – huge success or background for branding?

Open letter on Denmark’s freedom and legal situation

The whole world on trial

The Fall of the Bella Wall: Power Reclaimed

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