Danish police 2, climate protesters 0

Copenhagen's TV2 captured images of police striking protestors with batons today.

Copenhagen's TV2 captured images of police striking protesters with batons today.

COPENHAGEN–This was to be the day that would surpass the WTO protests in Seattle–the day a loose confederation of protesters would overwhelm police, storm the Bella Center, and aided by infiltrators within, displace world leaders and supplant the intricate negotiations here with their blunt list of heartfelt demands.

Between 3,000 and 4,000 demonstrators materialized, by one estimate, a crowd perhaps 10 percent of the size of the population of the conference itself. Under a blowing snowfall, the demonstrators gathered at two train stations and converged on the Bella Center from two sides.

They marched up the streets, tied rubber rafts together to cross canals that wind through the area, pushed against barriers and lines of policemen, but were halted with little difficulty. At least 250 ended up on their backsides with their hands zip-tied behind them. Some indeterminate number were teargassed. Television images captured police striking some with batons.

Inside the Bella Center, few infiltrators materialized, perhaps because the UN has restricted the number of delegates from non-governmental organizations it will allow inside. Those who did materialize chanted and marched out of the complex. Climate Justice Action, the protest organizer, claims there were “dozens/hundreds” of them. Unless I missed some, I’d say dozens.

They were not heard inside the plenary hall, where more than 120 heads of state have lined up to read statements from their nations.

At 1:30, protest organizers announced they would return to Christiania, a central Copenhagen neighborhood that declared itself an independent state in 1970, to celebrate with a banquet.

This was the second time demonstrators had amassed to march on the conference. Police contained Saturday’s march–a crowd variously estimated at 45,000 to 100,000 people–with even less difficulty.


Hugo Chavez sympathizes with protesters.

But soon after the protest fizzled, the protesters were lauded by a head of state in the plenary hall: Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.

“A lot of people were arrested in Copenhagen’s streets. I think we need to say hello to all of those people out there,” Chavez said. Delegates in the audience applauded. “Many of them are young. Well of course they’re young, they’re concerned about the world. Most of us in here are more advanced in years.”

There is a ghost running through the streets of Copenhagen, Chavez said, paraphrasing Karl Marx. “That ghost is a terrible ghost. No one wants to name him or her. It’s capitalism. Capitalism is that ghost.”

Chavez recalled signs he had seen carried by the protesters: “If the climate was a bank, they will already have saved it,” read one. And “Don’t change the climate, change the system,” read another.

“I take note of that. Let’s change the system. Let’s change the system and then we’ll begin to change the climate and save the world.”

The destructive model of capitalism is eradicating life, Chavez said. “If the destructive nature of capitalism resists, then let’s fight and make it obey us…. If we don’t do this, then the great invention of the universe, human beings, will disappear.”

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