Outside Climate Talks, Protesters March on the Hall
By JAMES KANTER and TOM ZELLER Jr.
COPENHAGEN — Perhaps the strangest sight at protests that turned violent here on Wednesday was a group of young men and women in fur coats and white bow ties who came bearing Champagne, fistfuls of dollar bills and grapes on a silver platter.
The group, which called itself Lobbyists for Profitable Climate Solutions, called on other protesters to stop their “global whining.” Corporations are already working hard enough to save the planet, they argued.
“We are very inspired by the International Chamber of Commerce,” said Morten Anderson, a 21-year-old from near Copenhagen who almost managed to keep a straight face while speaking for the group. “A great global market for trading carbon will solve matters related to the climate.”
The police said 260 people were arrested during the day of protests, in which demonstrators also tried to scale fences and descend on the conference center where international delegates are meeting on climate change. That brought the total detained since the meeting began Dec. 7 to 1,800.
The demonstrations bore many of the hallmarks of rallies that have accompanied other international policy meetings in recent years.
The organizers of the march to the Bella Center, a group called Climate Justice Action, said they were pushing for radical measures to curb global warming in the final days of the conference. Yet the protests also seemed to reflect an enduring frustration with the capitalist world order.
One of the most prominent slogans on placards was “System Change, Not Climate Change.” Members of groups like La Via Campesina, an international movement of farmers from the developing world, were among those at the head of the march.
The protesters said they were determined to enter the building and hold a “people’s assembly.”
As the helmeted police closed in, nearly pushing some protesters off the road and into a watery marsh, the protesters chanted “Anti, anti, capitalista!” before drawing back a few hundred yards to proceed with the assembly.
Some protesters tried to cross a stretch of water around the conference center on inflatable rafts tied together to form a makeshift pontoon bridge, but they were also stopped.
The rally brought together climate activists; representatives of countries suffering from drought, floods or other phenomena linked to global warming; and indigenous peoples. Speakers denounced markets, consumerism and animal cruelty, and asserted that wealthy northern countries owed a debt to the poor south.
Although there was a revolutionary fervor in the air, many of the protesters had specific objections to the way the United Nations organized the conference and controlled access. Some complained that the authorities had moved to limit participation by campaign groups.
“They can’t make decisions without us,” insisted Gopal Dayaneni, 40, one speaker at the open-air assembly. Mr. Dayaneni, a member of an environmental justice group in Oakland, Calif., called Movement Generation, said that the meeting was “corrupted by back-room deals.”
The ranks of demonstrators spanned generations as well as continents.
After the group she had been part of scattered to a nearby apartment complex, Vicky Moller, 63, of Wales, leaned against a support column for the Metro railway that runs above the road leading to and from the Bella Center.
With one bare hand, she clutched the corner of a “Save Our Climate” quilt she had made, and held her coat closed against the cold wind with the other. When a fellow protester walked by and offered her a pair of gloves, she gladly accepted.
Ms. Moller, who said she wrote the environmental pages for her local newspaper, traveled to Copenhagen as part of a British group called the Camp for Climate Action. “I feel that grass-roots organizations are more effective than governments,” she said.
She said she had no confidence that negotiators in the Bella Center had the planet’s best interests in mind, although she allowed that if they did commit themselves to emissions cuts, it would be a good start.
But she lamented the underlying premise of the negotiations. “The wrong thing is on the table,” she said. “They’re talking about emissions, instead of not pulling fossil fuels out of the ground.”A version of this article appeared in print on December 17, 2009, on page A12 of the New York edition. Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company