At the meeting on Monday someone in the crowd had made a comment about the march being about Turtles and Teamsters again, a reference to the battle of Seattle in 1999. These protests turned the streets outside a WTO summit into a battleground between alterglobalist protesters and US police, effectively disrupting the negotiations. But admirable as the demos at Copenhagen were they didn’t achieve that kind of momentum or impact on the conference itself.
The almost 1600 arrests since the beginning of the conference kept people away from the Reclaim Power action through incarceration and the threat of it. This highlighted some of the weakness of a movement still developing (Climate Justice Now! was only formed in 2008, nog al). At the end of the day there weren’t so many police that 1000 people could not have overcome them – but we were afraid, and not committed enough to overcome that fear. And tactically the Danish police were miles ahead of the protest movement. They used wire taps, undercover cops and had the power to arrest people at will and lock in them in make shift ‘cages’. Climate Justice Action claims that the horizontal power structure of the organization meant that the arrest of three spokespeople didn’t affect the leadership of the organization, but on the ground there seemed to be not enough communication and direction as police began to force the flow of the demonstrators. And the entire green bloc had been beaten and arrested before arriving, so depriving the demo of its most bold and experienced participants.
I was truly surprised by how scared I was the night before the march. Very little could go really wrong at the Bella Center I thought. The Danish police weren’t allowed to seriously injure us without violent provocation (of which there would be none) and being in the legal ‘blue bloc’ meant I was unlikely to be arrested. But I was still scared. It made me reflect on how brave the people who protested against the Apartheid regime (and in other times and places) must have been, as they faced a completely inhumane state and live ammunition. Protesting at international summits, by comparison, is a real luxury. One gets at least the attention of the world press.