Tens of thousands protest in Copenhagen
By Juliet Eilperin
Tens of thousands of protesters marched on the streets here Saturday, demanding bolder action on climate from the negotiators working inside the city's Bella Convention Center.
Protesters said as many 100,000 people joined in the event, but police estimated the count was closer to 25,000. The event was relatively peaceful, though a handful of masked activists set off small explosives near a group of government buildings downtown.
On a day when little happened in the U.N.-sponsored climate talks, thousands of activists walked across the city holding banners in English saying "There is No Planet B" and one in Spanish declaring, "The Earth is Saying, 'Enough.' " Several celebrities joined the protest, including Danish model and photographer Helena Christensen, who said that traveling to her mother's native country of Peru "made me aware of the heartbreaking issues the country is dealing with due to the impacts of climate changes that are already occurring."
"This is part of the reason why I have decided to join the big march -- to pass on the word and to appeal to the world's leaders to deliver a fair, ambitious and binding deal," she said. "It is not an easy task, but it needs to be done, there is no way around it anymore."
The police kept the protesters from getting too close to the Bella center, and said they had arrested 19 people, primarily on the grounds that they had either worn masks or carried pocket knives. Those activities are banned during demonstrations under Danish law.
According to one bystander, who asked not to be identified because he is involved in the climate talks, activists sporting masks and black outfits set off several explosives near Copenhagen's main canal, which is nearby several ministries.
"They were lobbing them by the buildings," he said, adding they began as flares but were followed by "a couple big explosions."
Inside the convention center, people gathered around television screens to watch the march throughout the afternoon.
But the protest did not seem to penetrate the consciousness of key officials such as Su Wei, China's chief climate negotiator. When asked whether he thought the demonstration was having a constructive impact on the international deliberations, he replied in English, "Actually, that is something that I was not aware of."
He then continued in Mandarin, saying, "Because the venue is large, I cannot hear what is happening outside." He observed that whether the march was hurting or helping depended on one's perspective.
"It shows the concentration of the general public and different sectors on the subject of climate change," he said. On the other hand, "You can also say that they disrupt the negotiations, or the freedom of other people.
Juliet Eilperin| December 12, 2009; 2:57 PM ET Save & Share:
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