Scenes of Heated Conflict from the COP15 Climate Change Protests

Protestors in the front rank pinned in with nowhere to go
Photo: Matthew McDermott

The noises that have come out of Copenhagen have not been harmonious. The word from inside the walls of the conference centre has been of rancorous deadlock, not a breakthrough, reached by world leaders trying to thrash out a deal to tackle climate change. On the streets, meanwhile, matters were more discordant still. Violent clashes between demonstrators and the Danish Politti have marked an otherwise bloodless event, with activists throwing missiles at police and their uniformed counterparts making brutal use of force.

December 14: Face-off between protestors and policeProtest_in_Copenhagen_COP15_climate_change_summit_14_December_face-offPhoto:
Photo: Matthew Oldfield Photography

It kicked off on December 12 when almost 1,000 people were arrested after sporadic outbreaks of violence in the midst of a largely peaceful demonstration attended by as many as 100,000 people. Activists set off fireworks and hurled bricks, smashing windows, while police were accused of heavy-handed tactics – “kettling” marchers moving through the city into confined areas to contain them, and holding detainees in freezing conditions without medical attention, water or toilets.

December 12: ‘Black block’ of anarchists and other activists take to the streets
Photo: ratexla

Writing in The Guardian, Emily Apple described her experience: “We tried to leave the kettle through an open apartment block. However, this led only to another road full of handcuffed people sat in lines. As soon as the police saw us watching this scene, we were also grabbed, thrown to the floor and arrested… Spirits in the steel holding cages were high and resistance was in the air. Some broke down the doors of their cages and the large warehouse echoed to caterwauling and chants…”

December 16: Police wielding truncheons repeatedly beating protestors
Photo: Matthew McDermott

And tension as demonstrators are surrounded by another group of police
Photo: Matthew McDermott

On December 16 there were more clashes and over 260 arrests as thousands of campaigners marched on the Bella Centre hosting the UN climate talks – a venue into which environmental groups like Friends of the Earth were barred entry. Police confronted protestors who wanted to stage a ‘people’s assembly’ inside the summit in a bid to ‘Reclaim Power’ but were beaten back by police, with demonstrators and others critical of tactics employed like the use of pepper spray and dogs.

One protestor voiced his view that “there are a lot of people here and we want actions not words”. It seems to fall pretty close to the mark. When words do not seem to be working – so evident in the mired negotiations between wealthy and poor nations over emissions cuts at Copenhagen – people are more likely to take matters into their own hands.

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7