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Civil Society Declares: ‘Our Climate, Not Your Business!’
COPENHAGEN - Fed up with the lack of progress in the climate negotiations, campaigners marched on the Bella Centre. NGOs at the negotiations staged a walkout to connect with civil society outside, but police violently broke up this ‘people's assembly' and arrested the ringleaders.
A morning of protest started around 10.30 at the Bella Centre with a sit-in of ninety members of international environmental NGO Friends of the Earth (FOE), who despite having access passes to the conference venue were excluded for security reasons.
"This is a militarisation of the conference," said Friends of the Earth chairmen Nnimmo Bassey. "Copenhagen is a city under siege."
UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer, who came to speak to protesters, admitted that accreditation had been withdrawn because of indications FoEI would try to break out of the centre to meet protesters outside.
Just after De Boer agreed to negotiate with the activists, hundreds of indigenous people marched through the Bella Centre towards the exit beating drums and chanting "Join the people's assembly!", "Claim power now!" and "Respect the rights of indigenous people!"
"We demand the rights of indigenous people be respected in this agreement," said a protester from Mexico, Maria Sanchez from Mexico. "The Kyoto protocol must be respected and developed nations must lower their emissions."
Police in riot gear arrived outside the Bella Centre in massive numbers and prevented the indigenous people from joining the People's Assembly outside the Bella Centre. The ‘people's assembly' was declared illegal despite having been granted a permit earlier.
Outside, helicopters hovered overhead and wounded cops were carried away behind the barricades, police stormed the truck from where organisers were rallying the protesters.
"Come help us now, the police are getting in," screamed one organiser through the speakers before he was silenced and loaded into a police van.
The protest caused chaos at the Bella Centre's entrance which was immediately sealed off for security reasons. Ministers and diplomats were stuck in the waiting crowd. Journalists rushing to the scene of the protest were turned away.
Reporter Jose Siles from A-TV in Spain was arrested when he tried to get inside. "They are hurting me," he cried out in pain when dragged away by Danish police. "I have done nothing wrong, this is not a democracy."
Inside the Bella Centre, journalists were barred from covering the ongoing sit-in in an attempt to isolate the protesters.