As Massive March Descends On Climate Negotiations, Copenhagen On Edge


Krus Krug

Climate talks may be moving forward only in fits and starts at Copenhagen, but on Saturday afternoon a march of thousands proceeded with determined speed to the main negotiating hall, the Bella Center. Marchers held aloft enormous emergency-yellow signs, with slogans like "Act Now," "There is no Planet B," and "Change the Politics Not the Climate." Demonstrators in polar bear costumes carried a banner that read "Save My Kids" and Greenpeace ferried an enormous inflatable snowman along the city's prim streets as people cheered from windows.

Spread along the route too were hundreds of police wagons and armed police, also dressed in neon yellow vests -- a stern reminder of the potential for violence.

UPDATE at 5:30 pm: around 500 protesters, some of them wearing face coverings, were cordoned off and arrested by police before reaching the Bella Center. The NGO Climate Justice Action has issued a statement citing human rights violations. The only reported damage were broken windows at the foreign ministry.


"Something will probably happen when it gets dark," said one local climate campaigner. "It always does."

Another campaign organizer told Treehugger that she had heard that if and when violence breaks out, extremist factions had agreed to remain separate from peaceful marchers.

As the rally neared the Bella Center, where demonstrators are planning a large rally of between 50,000 and 80,000 people, police were fencing in some marchers in an apparent attempt to prevent a swelling of the crowd.

Aside from the strong police presence, hints of extremist action were hard to find as the sun set. Many marchers flashed peace signs at police.

Arrests on Friday
On Friday, Copenhagen police arrested around 70 people at numerous points around the city during the day, but did not reveal charges. Al Jazeera reported they were connected to the "Our Climate - Not Your Business" movement, which complains that industry is turning climate change into a business opportunity.

On Wednesday, police raided a building in the early hours of the morning where 200 activists were sleeping, confiscating items but not making any arrests. Under recently instituted laws, Danish police have the power to detain people who they believe may commit crimes in the near future.

But some protesters were upbeat, reported the Guardian: "It's been a really good day," said one activist who called himself Aske. "We've been able to control the police and how they moved. They haven't really had power over us today and I think they've come to acknowledge our will to fight."

The "Real Deal" rally at the Bella Center this evening will coincide with a ceremony with Desmond Tutu inside, and a series of vigils around the world. TckTckTck has a list of the events; check #realdeal on twitter for updates.

It's an ominous 2 degrees C in Copenhagen, and the city, like the summit, feels like it's teetering on edge.



Editor's note: Below, watch a video of environmental reporter Olivia Zaleski, who caught the march when things got a bit violent. Olivia's Copenhagen Dispatch can be found on Timberland's Earthkeepers site or on their You Tube channel.

Follow more of TreeHugger's Copenhagen Climate Summit coverage