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Copenhagen blog 6: The good and the bad…
Vicki Lesley, WDM south-west London group, writes from Copenhagen
After an enjoyably civilised rail journey – including an overnight stopover in Cologne, and the unusual experience of the train actually driving on to the ferry for the short sea crossing – we arrived safely in Copenhagen on Friday evening. Despite the chill in the air – Copenhagen in December is definitely as cold as you’d expect! - it was a great feeling to finally be here, in spitting distance of the negotiations, after all those months of vigorous campaigning and anticipation back home.
Whilst hopes of a sufficiently robust and legally-binding agreement now seem somewhat forlorn, there is still everything to play for and as a climate change campaigner, there is simply nowhere else to be this week. WDM is certainly well represented here – along with the Southwest London group, there are also members from North London, Oxford, Bexhill and the South Lakes groups, as well of course as Tim, Kirsty, Kate and Deborah from the office. I’m proud to be here with so many other like-minded campaigners, many of whom I’ve met for the first time in Copenhagen.
Saturday morning dawned crisp and clear and, fully togged up in our thermals, we headed down to Halm Torvet, a pretty little square in the city centre, from where the Friends of the Earth march, The Flood, was setting off. With FoE campaigners from all over the world, as well as climate justice activists from many other organisations, this was a really well-attended warm-up march and a great way to get the day started.
But the main event was, of course, the mass march to the Bella Centre, where delegates from 192 countries are gathered for the UNFCC conference. The march was big – I’ve heard reports of up to 100,000 people, which I can well believe. Certainly, compared to The Wave in London the Saturday before, which was comparatively sedate, this felt like an event with enormous vibrancy, energy and passion.
We were marching with the Climate Justice block with campaigners from around the global South, including the legendary La Via Campesina. With our own Climate Justice truck pumping out tunes and hosting inspiring speakers from around the world, we were a force to be reckoned with!
So much for the good. But unfortunately, there was also a bad side, and it wouldn’t be a fair reflection of our day if I didn’t at least briefly mention the policing. For all its reputation as a liberal, tolerant and open society, Denmark seems to have taken the same approach to policing peaceful protest that got the Met into so much trouble after the G20 in London and one of our group had the great misfortune to get caught in the crossfire.
Whilst doing nothing more than patiently waiting for another group member who was using the toilet in an Italian restaurant, he suddenly found himself on the wrong side of a large line of riot police and was made to sit on the floor in the freezing cold for the next two hours. He was finally taken away in a waiting police van to a specially-comandeered former brewery in the city where he was held for six hours before finally being released.
For the rest of us on the march, it was an extremely distressing experience to have lost one of our ‘flock’ – we didn’t know where he’d been taken, or how long he would be held. Needless to say, our distress was as nothing to his dreadful experience – though he is of course far too nice and modest to kick up a big fuss about it!
Thankfully, around 11pm that night, we were all finally reunited and ended the day in what has since become our favourite haunt in Copenhagen – the Ale 16 comes particularly highly recommended! It was certainly a day we’ll all remember for a long time. Let’s just hope those on the inside don’t close their ears to the calls for climate justice ringing out on the streets…