Thursday, 17 December 2009

::16 12 09::

Danish authorities say that three years preparation has gone into policing the activism around the UN climate conference in Copenhagen. As demonstrators travel from all over the world to participate in Reclaim Power day today they say the illiberal stance police have taken against protesting has not put them off, despite 1500 people having already been arrested.

This figure continued to rise yetsterday as Tadzio Mueller, a spokesman for the organisers of today's event, Climate Justice Action (CJA), was arrested by plainclothes police as he left the Bella centre. He will be charged in court today. A police spokesman said, “We are charging him under sections 119 and 134 which involve violence against police and inciting unrest in the city.”

Jonny Lunberg, from Copenhagen police, said, We have tried to keep a good dialogue between NGOs and ourselves and hoped that no arrests would be made during the conference.” 194 people were released at 6am yesterday morning and activists were recovering after a night in which teargas and molotov cocktails were used in clashes with police in the Christiania area of Copenhagen. Climate Justice Action (CJA) were hosting a meeting to discuss today’s event and Naomi Klein was speaking. The riots happened after an otherwise peaceful day of protesting.

The trouble began at 11pm when police entered Christiania, an autonomous neighborhood in Copenhagen where families live. After a young group of people set fire to barricades that blocked the entrance to the neighborhood, Henrik Suhr of Copenhagen Police said, “We entered Christiania as a preventative measure so things wouldn’t get out of hand.”

However, eyewitnesses report that police were already within Christiania before there was any fire. “It was really frightening”,
said one resident who wanted to remain anonymous, “Police were chasing everyone through the streets and forcing their heads into the ground before tying their hands behind their backs. I didn’t know what was happening but ran a fast as I could to my house.”

The meeting had taken place in Woodstock bar and people began dancing and drinking afterwards. Another witness said, “It was really surreal. All of a sudden there were bangs. I looked outside and saw people being arrested whilst everyone inside was having a great time. Then police came in and made everyone sit on the ground.”

Amy Jacobs had left the party with a friend and her three-month-old baby. “I heard bangs and explosions but we kept calm inside. The police banged on the door and even though we explained 'We've got a
baby in here' they just smashed the windows before breaking down the door and coming in. It was as if they were looking for someone"

Ed Thomson of CJA agreed, “The way people were acting it was like they were on the hunt. All the Danish people who were arrested have been kept in detention until January. “ A police spokesperson responded to the accusation that they were looking for specific people by saying, “We wanted to arrest people who we identified as being troublemakers. We had police buses waiting in the area because we knew that was where activists went to after the protest during the day.”

Police have received over 200 official complaints over the treatment of people in Copenhagen and Amnesty International has called of an immediate investigation into the legitimacy of the many arrests. “When nearly 1,000 people are arrested and then all but 13 are released it means that many of those people were just innocent people,” said Ida Thuesen, of Amnesty International Denmark.

Olly Stubbs, a graffiti writer from London, was arrested on Friday for wearing a scarf whilst walking towards a demonstration. He described the detention centre as, “freezing, especially because they don’t let you wear any shoes. A group in the pen next to me were sprayed with teargas after they brought their benches together.” Police confirmed that pepper spray was used during this incident.

The police have been following activist forums and websites ahead of today’s protest. Jonny Lunberg said, “We have allowed the demonstration to happen as you have the right to protest in Denmark and we have agreed that the march will only be aloud to a designated field where the Bella Centre can be seen.”

Ed Thompson of CJA said, “There’s a widespread feeling that people have tried to avoid getting arrested before today. It’s the big one, it’s the most important one of the lot and hopefully police incitement won’t result in people just throwing bricks and bombs. It would totally detract from the aim of the day, to create a people’s assembly.”

Delegates from Latin America are expected to participate in the people’s assembly today. This is due to take place at the gates of the Bella Centre but Mr Lunberg warned, “It will not happen there. I know we will be successful in halting the demonstration at the field and any event will happen at the field.”

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