Hundreds of arrests have been made here in Copenhagen as climate justice advocates attempt a massive act of civil disobedience to disrupt the COP15 talks. Earlier today Danish police detained people around the city who were among the thousands making their way to the Bella Center for the "Reclaim Power" action. Organizers had vowed to stage a "people’s assembly" inside the summit to amplify calls for climate justice. As part of the action, hundreds of summit delegates and attendees marched through the Bella Center halls to join the protesters outside. Police have used pepper spray and batons against protesters as they converged on the site. The People’s Assembly took place on a street near the Bella Center with hundreds of people in attendance.
In what could have been a preemptive move against the delegates’ walkout, several major environmental groups were barred from the climate summit earlier today. The groups, including Friends of the Earth International, Avaaz and Tck Tck Tck, say their accreditation was revoked without explanation. Around fifty people held a sit-in near a security checkpoint in response.
Today’s arrests are the latest in a massive crackdown on climate justice activists. On Tuesday, a key organizer behind the Reclaim Power action was arrested as he left the Bella Center. The organizer, Tadzio Mueller, was jailed overnight without charge. Last week Mueller spoke to Current TV about the Danish police crackdown.
Tadzio Mueller: "This is simply par for the course. I mean, this is what we’ve come to expect from police forces around the world when these big protests happen. And we, the network Climate Justice Action, have been saying now for over a year that we are planning actions of civil disobedience. So in that sense it is absolutely unsurprising what the police are doing. And while, of course, we condemn it, we also don’t want to get caught in a situation where all we talk about is the police’s violation of our civil liberties. And no doubt those violations have occurred. We are really much more interested in talking about our different agenda for climate politics and that we’re absolutely on track to achieve some of the most amazing actions in the Global North, we hope, since the WTO protests in Seattle."
World leaders are arriving in Copenhagen as the climate summit formally enters high-level talks. On Tuesday, US climate negotiator Todd Stern said he foresees no change in President Obama’s offer to cut emissions by 17 percent percent of 2005 levels. The proposal has been widely criticized because it amounts to just a four percent cut when adopting the 1990 standard used by the rest of the world.
Todd Stern: "I’m not anticipating any change in the mitigation commitment. I think that’s something that the President announced just — I don’t know, I guess it was a couple of weeks ago. And so, I don’t think there’s going to be a change in that commitment."
Stern also renewed his opposition to the payment of climate reparations to poorer countries most affected by global warming.
Todd Stern: "We fully recognize our historic role in putting emissions up in the atmosphere, and we also fully recognize our responsibility to be part of an overall global effort to help poorer countries, both with regard to the need to adapt to the impacts of climate change and the need to help them develop on a sustainable path, which at this point in our collective history means low carbon path. Reparations, to me, conveys a sense of culpability, guilt, that kind of thing. I just — I don’t think that that’s a legitimate — a legitimate way to look at it."
Canada, meanwhile, has acknowledged it’s drafted a secret plan that would exempt its largest polluters from meeting greenhouse gas reductions. A leaked proposal suggests Canada allow its oil and gas industry to cut emissions by fifteen megatonnes instead of the forty-eight megatonnes the Conservative government has proposed.
On Capitol Hill, healthcare reform negotiations are intensifying as Senate Democrats pursue the sixty-vote threshold needed to avoid a Republican filibuster. President Obama emerged from a meeting with Democratic senators Tuesday to call for the bill’s passage before the Christmas holiday.
President Obama: "I am absolutely confident that, if the American people know what’s in this bill and if the Senate knows what’s in this bill, that this is going to pass, because it’s right for America. And I’m feeling cautiously optimistic that we can get this done and start rolling up our sleeves and getting to work improving the lives of the American people."
Democrats are expected to finalize a significant revision to the measure to appease Independent Senator Joseph Lieberman. On Sunday, Lieberman announced he would oppose the healthcare bill unless Democrats removed a provision lowering the age of Medicare eligibility to fifty-five. The Medicare expansion had been added in exchange for meeting the demands of senators, including Lieberman, who have opposed the public option. On Tuesday, Lieberman said he’s now confident both the Medicare expansion and the pubic option have been abandoned.
Sen. Joseph Lieberman: "If, as appears to be happening, the so-called public option, government-run insurance program is out, and the Medicare buy-in, which I thought would jeopardize Medicare, cost taxpayers billions of dollars over the long haul, increase our deficit, is out, and there’s no other attempts to bring things like that in, then I’m going to be in a position where I can say — I’m getting toward that position where I can say what I’ve wanted to say all along, that I’m ready to vote for healthcare reform.’"
Despite the removal of the public option and Medicare expansion, no progressive senators have said whether they’ll switch their vote in protest. In an interview with Vermont Public Radio, former Vermont governor Howard Dean came out against the Senate bill.
Howard Dean: "Honestly, the best thing to do right now is kill the Senate bill and go back to the House and start the reconciliation process, where you only need fifty-one votes and it would be a much simpler bill. You have the vast majority of Americans want the choices. They want real choices. They don’t have them in this bill. This is not healthcare reform, and it’s not close to healthcare reform."
As Democrats privately negotiate how extensively they’ll abandon public healthcare, the Senate continues to vote on a series of key amendments. On Tuesday, the Senate failed to pass an amendment that would have made it easier for Americans to purchase cheaper, FDA-approved prescription drugs abroad. The final vote was 51 to 48, nine short of the sixty needed to overcome a filibuster. Thirty Democrats voted against the proposal. Supporters say it would have saved US consumers around $80 billion over the next decade. The Obama administration had also opposed the measure. Meanwhile, the Senate is poised to open debate today on an amendment from Independent Senator Bernie Sanders to establish a single-payer, universal healthcare system. Discussion of the Sanders amendment will mark the first time a single-payer healthcare proposal has ever been debated on the Senate floor.
The Obama administration has confirmed plans for the eventual transfer of dozens of Guantanamo Bay prisoners to a prison in Illinois. On Tuesday, the White House said it would purchase the Thomson Correctional Center as part of its effort to close Guantanamo. Some prisoners will face trial by military commissions, while others will remain jailed without charge. In response, some critics have already dubbed the prison "Guantanamo North." In a statement, Anthony Romero of the American Civil Liberties Union said, "Shutting down Guantánamo will be nothing more than a symbolic gesture if we continue its lawless policies onshore."
Democratic Congress member Luis Gutierrez has unveiled a new immigration reform bill that would provide a path for immigrant workers to get documented status. Workers would have to meet several conditions, including proof of employment, payment of a $500 fine, English fluency and a criminal background check.
In Pennsylvania, three police officers and two teenagers have been indicted on federal charges related to the fatal beating of Luis Ramirez, a Mexican immigrant in the town of Shenandoah. Earlier this year, an all-white jury exonerated the two teenagers of the most serious charges for their alleged roles in Ramirez’s death. The two were part of a group that witnesses say brutally beat Ramirez while yelling racial slurs. On Tuesday, the Justice Department indicted the two teens on federal hate crimes charges. Prosecutors also indicted Shenandoah’s police chief and two officers for obstruction of justice in their investigation into the killing. The three police officers are accused of several acts, including writing false reports after hearing information implicating the teenage attackers. One of the accused officers was dating the mother of one of the teen suspects, while another officer’s son was a high school football teammate of all those involved.
The Washington, DC Council has approved a final vote to legalize same-sex marriage. The District would become the sixth place in the nation to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry. DC Mayor Adrian Fenty is expected to sign the measure by the end of this week. But gay rights opponents say they’ll push for a judicial or legislative intervention during the thirty-day congressional review period.
And a correction to a headline from Monday’s broadcast. Eight people were arrested at a Berkeley education protest this weekend after property damage took place, but there is no proof any of them had taken part. The group included an independent journalist whose camera was seized. The journalist, David Morse, says he was jailed overnight and released after putting up a $13,000 bond. Other protesters are said to still remain behind bars.