Tens of thousands march for climate action
Grist.org’s Jennifer Prediger on today’s big climate march:
COPENHAGEN – The sun came out and skies were blue for the first time this week as climate activists from around the world gathered here this morning for the largest public gathering since the start of the international climate talks.
Jennifer PredigerThe city was aglow with colorful activists. A handful of climate skeptics were in the crowd with megaphone and signs, but they were a distinct minority, easily lost in the large crowd gathered in support of an international climate deal. Some climate activists were dressed in bear suits or as Santa Claus, painted their faces blue, or hoisted posters and banners with the likes of Che Guevara and Karl Marx.
Droning sounds played from a speaker system in Parliament Square, where the march began, an ominous nod to the results of unchecked climate change. Overall, there was a general sense of congeniality. Police were out in high numbers, outfitted with riot gear as several helicopters monitored the crowd from above.
Jennifer PredigerAfter the rally, Grist producer Holly Schlesinger and special correspondent Eugene Mirman took a moment to pose and smile with police dressed in riot gear. An hour and a half later, our camera crew was stopped and searched by police. [Though the main march was mostly peaceful, more than than 600 people were eventually arrested. Many took part in small spontaneous demonstrations in other parts of the city. Black Bloc protesters, for example, set fire to vehicles and caused trouble in patches throughout Copenhagen.]
With our wit and charm, we assured the police we were of no danger. They let us go, but the tone of the march had certainly changed. The eery whine of European-style emergency sirens could be heard around the city, while the blue, flashing lights of police cars lit up the streets.
That didn’t seem to deter dedicated, peaceful marchers heading toward the Bella Center, where actions were scheduled to continue throughout the evening. A large candlelight vigil hosted by 350.org will take place at the center, where international delegates are half-way through their two-week effort to draft a new global climate compact. In solidarity with 350.org and all the other climate activists in Copenhagen, some 3,000 thousand candlelight vigils are scheduled to take place around the world today.
Organizers anticipated 60,000 to 80,000 would show up for the Copenhagen march today. People on the streets estimated that the actual number reached 100,000. The most recent report from the Danish Police, as reported by the AFP news agency, is that 30,000 participated in the march. Either way, it’s tens of thousands of people — far more than attended the Tea Party rallies that the U.S. media obsessed over last summer.
The marchers were united in calling for significant action from the U.N. Climate Summit. After a week of squabbling between the United States and China and between the rich and poor nations, the marchers hoped to encourage world leaders to make greater commitments next week.
Video: On the ground with the marchers