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Ahead of Major Climate Protests, a Rare Glimpse at Activist Preparations in Copenhagen

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Here in Copenhagen, tens of thousands of people are expected to take part in a march Saturday protesting the failure of world leaders to address the climate crisis. Saturday’s march is just one of a series of major demonstrations scheduled over the week. Activists from around Europe and the world are flooding into Copenhagen. Meanwhile, the Danish police have launched its largest security effort. Last night, Democracy Now! got a rare tour inside several of the key convergent spaces where protest organizers are preparing for the demonstrations. [includes rush transcript]

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Here in Copenhagen, tens of thousands of people are expected to take part in a march Saturday protesting the failure of world leaders to address the climate crisis. Saturday’s march is just one of a series of major demonstrations scheduled over the week. Activists from around Europe and the world are flooding into Copenhagen.

Meanwhile, the Danish police have launched their largest security effort ever.

Last night in the rain, Democracy Now! got an underground tour inside several of the key convergent spaces where protest organizers are preparing for the demonstrations.

    LISA FITHIAN: My name is Lisa Fithian, and I’m here from the United States as part of a network called Mobilization for Climate Justice in the US. And a number of us are here as part of the Climate Justice Action.

    And we’re going from — one of the amazing things about what’s happening in Copenhagen is all this incredible infrastructure that’s been built to support the tens of thousands of people that are coming here. You know, the UN has their whole infrastructure. But here, we have just come from a place that — Ragnhildgade —- some of us call it the Rag House or the Rag Space, but it’s a place that can house up to a thousand people. It has a people’s kitchen there. There’s a cafe, meeting room space. And it’s a space that’s actually been sanctioned by the city, as well. So they actually came in and opened the buildings, put on some heat, and then brought in some port-o-johns. And we’re headed to -—

    AMY GOODMAN: Didn’t they also raid it last night?

    LISA FITHIAN: Yeah. Yeah, thanks for the little reminder of that. They did raid that space last night and came in and woke people up.

    AMY GOODMAN: Is this the Danish police?

    LISA FITHIAN: This is the Danish police, came and confiscated a bunch of materials, some — a lot of the art supplies and materials for the protest. There’s a lot of question about whether they violated the agreements. And so, actually, they went to court today to try and get this stuff back. There’s some sense that they thought they might get the materials back, because there are agreements about the use of space with the city.

    AMY GOODMAN: We’re standing in the Rag Space. We’re going to talk to someone now who doesn’t want to go on camera, but he was here, and he said he’s willing to describe the action.

    UNIDENTIFIED: We were almost all sleeping at 3:00 in the morning. The police arrived. And in three seconds, I think, they cut the lock and broke inside with almost ten camión, trucks. And there were almost 100 riot cops surrounding all the place, the first building. And after, some other of them went inside, then went to the cafe and take the people which were here in the first building, in the sleeping building, and after, taking away a lot of materials and tools and stuff we had here.

    LISA FITHIAN: And we’re actually headed to an area that’s another kind of convergence area. Convergence spaces are pretty common for these global mobilizations. But this one has lots of it. And that’s actually one of the amazing things about the organizing in Europe, how over many generations people have built their capacity to support horizontal movements, really.

    So the space we’re headed to now, there are four or five different buildings. There is the Folkets Hus, which is where there’s also another people’s kitchen, meeting space. Not too far away is the StØberiet. Somebody said, “Just call it ‘the Strawberry House.’” But it’s a convergence space, information point, also has a cafe, also has meeting space, restrooms. There is the Indymedia Center, which we know. It’s interesting, because we’re ten years from Seattle, and so the Indymedias were really born in Seattle. And so, again, they’re alive and well and thriving. There’s a working space for the other media group. And then there’s a legal office.

    AMY GOODMAN: We go into a convergence space called Infopoint. Tonight, groups of young people and students are gathering to talk about their plans. Most don’t feel comfortable talking to the press, but a twenty-year-old woman from Tasmania, Australia talks about the climate change conference. It’s officially called the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. She refers to it as the UNFCCC.

    LAURA GRAINGER: My name is Laura Grainger. I’m here in Copenhagen with Young Friends of the Earth Europe. I haven’t actually been into the Bella Center today, which has been really great, because the climate of the UN talks is totally different to the outside world. It’s a stale bubble of air where people aren’t actually talking about, you know, the way that we should be thinking. It’s very much vested interests in there and economic growth.

    It really is the kind of agenda at the moment of the UNFCCC, which is really, really bad, because when you think about it, to solve this crisis, that is really much a social justice issue now, there needs to be a global change in thinking, like everybody really needs to be opening their eyes, because it’s not an easy thing to solve, which is why something like the UNFCCC hasn’t succeeded yet in any way. It’s been going on pretty much my entire life, and yet carbon emissions and climate change is only more rapidly and rapidly increasing every single day, which is really scary, because time is running out. In fact, it’s past the time for action. It’s long past the time for action. The time is now, more than ever, for everybody around the world to open their eyes and stand up.

    LISA FITHIAN: We just came out of the Infopoint in sort of the center of town, the StØberiet House. And right across the way, across this park area, is the Folkets Hus, which is a longstanding space in the community. There’s a cafe area in the downstairs area. And then on the second floor there’s a kitchen and a big meeting room. Third floor there’s a — one of the local left TV stations, I believe, is in there. And the third floor is a bit art space. But this is a — I think this is the Sabbat [phon.], one of the Belgian kitchens is setting up at this place.

    THOMAS: I’m Thomas from Le Sabor, a mobile action kitchen from — from Europe.

    AMY GOODMAN: And what are you doing here? Why are you set up in Copenhagen?

    THOMAS: Those dates are the COP15 meeting and then all the protests, and we think it’s really important that lots of people can come here and do the things they want to do to protest the summit. So we think it’s important to make sure those people have good food.

    AMY GOODMAN: Tell us your name and where you’re from and why you’re doing this banner.

    FRED: My name is Fred. I’m from the UK, currently studying in Sweden. I’m basically doing this banner for the agricultural march on the 15th, which is next Tuesday, basically trying to drill home the point about what a huge issue agriculture is when it comes to climate change. Studies have shown, I think, it’s the cause of more than 50 percent of CO2 emissions.

    LISA FITHIAN: We’ve just left the Folkets Hus, where we had delicious food by the Le Sabbat [phon.] kitchen and then up to the banner-making room, where people are preparing for — tonight they were preparing for the agricultural demonstration on Tuesday.

    AMY GOODMAN: And can you talk about the protests that are being organized right now?

    LISA FITHIAN: There are many different protests with different themes each day of the week. Many people that have come from around the world that are, say, on the outside are working under a banner, “system change, not climate change,” because we’re very clear that everything the UN is talking about and the system of capitalism is not going to shift the problem. And so — and part of the real power force behind that is the corporations. And so, people want to go to a variety of corporations tomorrow and expose their role in greenwashing, green capitalism, and, you know, promises, the Copenhagen promises, of all the things that they’ll deliver to solve this climate crisis, even though they got us in it.

    AMY GOODMAN: It’s called “Don’t Buy the Lie”?

    LISA FITHIAN: “Don’t Buy the Lie.”

    “Flood for Climate Justice” is the name for Saturday’s protest, December 12th. And that will be the mass one with hopefully 80,000 to 100,000 people, and hopefully we flood through the streets to the Bella Center to get our message out there.

    Sunday is the 13th, and there’s an agricultural protest.

    Monday is called “Hit the Production.” And there is an intention to go into the port and to disrupt business as usual. Monday is a No Borders action, where people are planning to go to the Ministry of Defense and to draw attention to the fact that many people have to cross borders because of the climate crisis. People — you know, how many islands have been submerged under water? How many people are being displaced to put in, you know, eucalyptus plantations or wind farms? And so, we have to understand that the crisis itself and the proposed market solution to the crisis are going to continue to perpetuate those same problems. And so, we need to make connections to those issues, just like we need to make the connection to war, as well.

    AMY GOODMAN: What are the plans for the 16th?

    LISA FITHIAN: I mean, basically there’s going to be a big march starting at 8:00 a.m. That’s been — that route has been approved by the police. And our intention is to take over the parking lot outside the United Nations negotiations and commence with a giant people’s assembly, with people from the inside joining us. And we have made it very clear that that is our intention and that we want to get into that lot, and whether we have to go over or through barricades in our way. People are talking about that and preparing for that, really clear that we are committed to confrontational, nonviolent tactics and to do no harm against any person. That includes the police. But I think we’re going to see thousands of people flooding in, trying to get into that space to hold a massive people’s assembly to have our voice and our agenda the focus of the day, not the corporate-supported governments inside.

AMY GOODMAN: Longtime activist Lisa Fithian, she is with Climate Justice Action. Special thanks to Democracy Now!’s John Hamilton and Mike Burke, who went on that underground tour with us.

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