DemonstratorsDemonstrators at Saturday’s climate-change march in Copenhagen.Grist photo/Jennifer PredigerI skipped Copenhagen’s large demonstration on Saturday for the same reason I missed the Bright Green expo and Desmond Tutu speaking at the Bella Center—there’s so freakin’ much happening here, so many events worth attending and reporting at every waking moment. I’ll post more soon about the event I did attend, a gathering of corporate executives up the coast at Hamlet’s Kronborg Castle. But a quick word on Saturday’s rally.

What happened: Tens of thousands of people showed up to demand, beg, shame and inspire world political leaders, all in hopes of getting a scientifically sane plan for addressing climate change. The crowd estimates I’ve seen ranged from 30,000 to 100,000 people. With few exceptions, they delivered a unified message—give us a real deal that will prevent catastrophic changes. With few exceptions, they were peaceful and civil. Grist’s Jennifer Prediger has photos and a first-hand account.

Here’s how the world’s media heavyweights presented it all:

  • CNN: “Arrests at climate conference”
  • The New York Times: “Hundreds of Protesters Arrested at Climate Talks”
  • ABC News: “Green Rage: 600 Arrested at Climate Talks” and “Denmark: Nearly 1,000 Climate Protesters Released”
  • BBC: “Fury at Copenhagen police tactics”
  • Fox News: “Protesters Urge Action on Climate Change at Summit” and “Denmark: Nearly 1,000 Climate Protesters Released”

These were the Copenhagen headlines on these sites on Sunday morning. They’re the first five sites I checked—not a comprehensive review. But they’re enough to see how prominent media sites fixated on the arrests–the controversy–and not on the substance of the rally’s message. Those arrests, by the way, were confined to “black bloc” protestors who had planned to cause violence and who stand more for overthrowing government than for holding it accountable.

The headlines simply missed the reality of most people’s experience at the rally. Here’s a bit of that from Keith Schneider’s dispatch:

A woman from Ghana opened the rally with a story of how her village, economically robust at the start of the decade, and easily able to feed itself, had been under siege in recent years by killing floods that gave rise to plagues of mosquitoes. The two growing seasons that used to exist have been cut in half to an uncertain one. After the floods came droughts and then floods and erosion and an end to bountiful harvests. Sickness has brought unexpected deaths. She blamed the fluky weather and its sober consequences on climate change.