Day X in Copenhagen: THIS is what democracy looks like!

By Jacqui Patterson, NAACP Climate Justice Initiative Director

Now this was a day like none other! I started the day with a face of pepper spray and staring down the snout of an attack dog, progressed to being in a semi-formal dress sipping cocktails with Al Gore at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, and ended with my highlight of the day, at the Greenlandic House participating in a gender and climate roundtable with sisters from around the globe.

So to start off, I arrived at the demonstration late, but with video camera in hand prepared to capture the images to give readers at home a window into what’s happening among activists rallying for democracy in Copenhagen. I’ll briefly summarize what I saw, because the footage says it all. Demonstrators were chanting, “This is what democracy looks like” “What do we want? Climate Justice! When do we want it? Now!” “When I say climate, you say justice! Climate! Justice! Climate! Justice!

Then, the energy in the air shifted palpably as the crowd prepared to push through the police and advance towards the Bella Center.  The rally leader began to say. “Okay, everyone come together and PUSH!  PUSH!” “Reclaim Power! Reclaim Power!” At the same time she urged others to “Form a chain around the truck! Don’t let the chain be broken!” In between her alternating refrain directed at the now advancing police was “This is a peaceful demonstration!!” and “The whole world is watching! The whole world is watching”!

Then the announcements began to be issued from the police, “By order of the queen, this has been declared an illegal demonstration.” “ Clear the area or you are subject to arrest”  Dressed In full riot gear from head to toe they aggressively advanced on the crowd with tank like trucks and on foot, with swinging batons, spraying tear gas, and barking German Shepherd attack dogs! For all of my years of AIDS activism in different countries I had never seen such a show of force, aggression, and brutality directed at demonstrators…..and I hope I never see something like that again. Many people emerged from the melee in tears, limping, and supported by their friends in the struggle. But the crowd pushed on unrelentingly. Soon there were literally hundreds of policy and they had driven aggressively into the crowd with their trucks and soon formed their own chain surrounding the crowd and by creating this barrier, combined with some intense battering with the batons and administering tear gas, had managed to contain the crowd.

According to some sources, there were about 4,000 demonstrators in attendance. A cleaner version of the protest can be found from this footage, courtesy of The Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/video/2009/dec/17/copenhagen-climate-change

Meanwhile Friends of the Earth, Avaaz, and Tck, Tck, Tck were refused entry into the Bella Center this morning and weren’t provided with any rationale for being banned. Speculation is that this was part of the crack-down to try to prevent any more actions from being held in the Bella Center.

Also meanwhile delegates on the inside, led by the Indigenous folks, mounted their synchronized action where they marched through the Bella Center to head out and join the rally to “Reclaim Power”. They were restrained by the police in actually exiting and joining the others, again with a show of force. However, they made their voices heard!

Later that afternoon, through an invitation that came to the NAACP I joined the Alliance for Climate Protection Reception featuring Al Gore.  He spoke more stridently and with more passion than I had heard him speak as he encouraged all to pull together and push for advancement of climate legislation in the US. He also pushed for concerted action to make the Mexico City COP16 relevant and productive. He even suggested that we think about holding it in July, the hottest month in the year, for emphasis of what we’re talking about. Gore was also pragmatically concerned that having the COP 2 days after the US midterm elections would not be politically wise. Finally, he emphasized that we needed to act in accordance with the urgency of this issue and thought we needed to instill deadlines as the US and globally.

Finally, the best part of my day was meeting at the Greenlandic house that was organized by the Black Women’s Roundtable, led by Felicia Davis,  and included women from India, Cameroon, Kenya, the US, Denmark, Germany, and several other countries. People introduced themselves and how they came to this work, with inspiring tales of impact and activism. We reflected on our successes at COP 15 and talked about our plans leading to COP16 in Mexico City.

At the end, I was fortunate to interview Letetia Daniels Jackson from Dothan, Alabama and Anna Pinto from Jaipur, India as they respectively told their stories of how they reached this level of commitment in addressing climate change. Anna spoke of how her mother first noted the change in the taste and smell of food and water and how the insects and agriculture also began to change.  Letetia talked about her work in tobacco and deadly secondary exposure, as well as her observations re wasteful and excessive lifestyles, as well as noting Alabama farmer experiences with changes in bees and how all of this is connected. She ended with a call to action, stating that our very lives hinge on our concerted response.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Copenhagen Blog, Police Violence

3 Comments on “Day X in Copenhagen: THIS is what democracy looks like!”

  1. TK Says:

    Jacqui–this is simply remarkable first-person journalism.

    You are really bringing us with you to Copenhagen from the comfort of our homes. Thank you for your struggle and for your frozen fingers. This has been an inspiration!

    • jacquipatterson1 Says:

      Thank you so much TK. Your comment gives me themotivation to power through the frozen fingers. 🙂 My very objective was to bring readers with me to Copenhagen because there are so many who can’t be there but who need to hear what’s going on and have some role, big or small, in affecting what happens next. So your remark on this is immensely affirming. Thank you!!!

  2. MattMiller Says:

    I am truly amazed at the knowledge and passion you were able to document for us eager eyes and ears from across the U.S. and the world. I am in college and we truly would have NO idea how crazy this stuff was had I not read this. I will tell my chapter of NAACP all about it!


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