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Climate Crackdown: UN Bars Friends of the Earth and Other Environmental Groups from Climate Talks

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The crackdown around the UN climate talks in Copenhagen is intensifying. Earlier today the United Nations suspended several mainstream environmental groups and barred members from re-entering the conference. Organizations targeted include Friends of the Earth, Tck Tck Tck, Avaaz, World Vision and Via Campesina. Democracy Now! caught up with Nnimmo Bassey, the prominent Nigerian environmentalist, just as he was being removed by security from the conference. [includes rush transcript]

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

AMY GOODMAN: We’re broadcasting live from Copenhagen. This is Climate Crackdown, Climate Countdown.

The crackdown around the UN climate talks in Copenhagen is intensifying. On Tuesday, plainclothes police officers snatched a prominent climate justice activist organizer named Tadzio Mueller just after he left the Bella Center, the site of the UN climate conference. Earlier today, police arrested over 200 people and shot tear gas at protesters attempting to reach the conference site. The total number of people arrested this week in Copenhagen is now over 1,500.

A group of people inside the summit also walked out of the conference to set up a People’s Assembly outside. Here inside the Bella Center, the United Nations suspended several mainstream environmental groups and barred members from re-entering the conference. Organizations targeted include Friends of the Earth, Avaaz, World Vision, Via Campesina, Tck Tck Tck. Dozens of members of Friends of the Earth staged a sit-in to protest their exclusion from the talks.

Democracy Now! caught up with Nnimmo Bassey, the prominent Nigerian environmentalist, just as security was removed him from the conference. Nnimmo Bassey is the chair of Friends of the Earth International. As Bassey was being expelled, the European Union Parliamentarian José Bové attempted to intervene.

    NNIMMO BASSEY: We are being kicked out, more or less. And all our colleagues are out there in the cold, and we are just going to take our leave now.

    AMY GOODMAN: Wait, is this your colleague here?

    NNIMMO BASSEY: No, no, no, no. It’s the security man escorting me out.

    AMY GOODMAN: He’s escorting you out?

    NNIMMO BASSEY: Yeah, yeah.

    CHRIS ANKERSON: [on cell phone] [inaudible] this guy here, asking him to come out and speak.


    CHRIS ANKERSON: [on cell phone] Thank you. Just a sec.

    AMY GOODMAN: This is the leader of one of the NGOs.


    AMY GOODMAN: You’re asking him to leave?

    CHRIS ANKERSON: I’m escorting him to speak to his people. He’s already had — he’s spoken with UN senior management about this. They’ve passed on a decision. And I’m asking him to communicate it to his people, and then I will act on that policy and that decision.

    AMY GOODMAN: And what’s your name?

    CHRIS ANKERSON: Chris Ankerson, chief of security.

    AMY GOODMAN: Chris Ankerson. But I don’t —-

    JOSÉ BOVÉ: I understand that you’re about to put him out from here. He’s a representative of the people -—

    CHRIS ANKERSON: I understand that.

    JOSÉ BOVÉ: — who are suffering about what’s happening in the world now. And you put them out. How can you explain that? How can you explain that?

    UNIDENTIFIED: And is this ban to Friends of the Earth is the same one for Greenpeace, WWF and all the big NGOs?

    CHRIS ANKERSON: I’m not able to speak on any other issue.

    AMY GOODMAN: No, but he has a pass. Why is he being asked to leave?

    CHRIS ANKERSON: His organization was barred from coming today. The reasons have been explained to him by the UN senior management.

    AMY GOODMAN: What are the reasons?

    CHRIS ANKERSON: I was not in that meeting. You could ask Mr. Bassey.

    AMY GOODMAN: Oh, what are the reasons that your organization can’t be here?

    NNIMMO BASSEY: We — the reason is very general, that because of the security situation today around here, perhaps because of — I don’t know. This is why we — I don’t know why we’re singled out.

    AMY GOODMAN: No one from Friends of the Earth can be here?

    NNIMMO BASSEY: Nobody can come in here as a representative of Friends of the Earth International today.

    AMY GOODMAN: And your position with Friends of the Earth International?

    NNIMMO BASSEY: Well, I’m the chair of Friends of the Earth International. I was escorted in to find out why this decision was made, and that’s all we can get. So I’m just stepping out now to meet with my colleagues. I will tell them — give them this information. And then we are going to the court.

    AMY GOODMAN: Why did — what reasons did they give you that you have to leave right now?

    NNIMMO BASSEY: You know, the reason is, as I said, is very general. It’s a broad security reason that — that is a security situation. The security report indicates that we should not be allowed to be in.

    AMY GOODMAN: The UN security told you that their security report says Friends of the Earth is not allowed to be here?

    NNIMMO BASSEY: Precisely.

    CHRIS ANKERSON: Sir, can I come and ask you to speak to your people, because they’re asking [inaudible] —-

    NNIMMO BASSEY: Oh, yes. Oh, yes.

    JOSÉ BOVÉ: It’s important to give the information to press.

    CHRIS ANKERSON: But it’s also important for him to talk to his own people.

    AMY GOODMAN: Did they explain why you’re a security threat?

    NNIMMO BASSEY: No, no.

    AMY GOODMAN: Did they say they feel that you are a security threat?

    NNIMMO BASSEY: Not in so many or so few words. But, I mean, this is the implication. We are a nonviolent group. We believe in the right of people to protest or to dissent. And we just can’t -— I can’t personally understand why we are kept out of the conference.

    AMY GOODMAN: They said they were reducing the numbers of people within organizations, but not eliminating whole organizations.

    NNIMMO BASSEY: Exactly. By today we had ninety badges. We have a large delegation of about so many hundreds of people who have come from all over the world as members of Friends of the Earth. And today we expected to have about ninety delegates in here, but not one has been allowed in.

    AMY GOODMAN: Including you. And you’re the chair of Friends of the Earth?

    NNIMMO BASSEY: Including, yeah. I’m being kicked out. Yeah, we’re leaving.

    AMY GOODMAN: What is your message to this conference? What is it that you think they’re so concerned about?

    NNIMMO BASSEY: I think, you know, it’s a very paradoxical situation, where we have leaders and negotiators who should be listening to people, but they appear not to be willing to hear what the people have to say. And we are here as ordinary people, grassroots mobilizers, just to speak the mind of the people that want a real climate deal in Copenhagen. But apparently our leaders want to be cocooned away, to listen only to themselves, to do what they want. And this is very —- it’s a sad day for us.

    AMY GOODMAN: What if he weren’t to leave?

    CHRIS ANKERSON: He has to leave, ma’am. I’m asking him now to come and to address his constituents, as he made a deal with me that he would speak to his own organization.

    JOSÉ BOVÉ: And after, come back.

    CHRIS ANKERSON: No, he cannot come back, sir.

    AMY GOODMAN: Have other whole organizations been banned from here, NGOs?

    NNIMMO BASSEY: I don’t really have that information, but I’ve seen a couple of people who couldn’t come in this morning.

    AMY GOODMAN: From other organizations?

    NNIMMO BASSEY: Yes. For example, I saw somebody from World Vision, and that was really, truly amazing. Somebody from a conservation organization also from Denmark was barred from entering.

    CHRIS ANKERSON: Sir, please -—

    AMY GOODMAN: And yet, you have the ID that you need to come in here.

    NNIMMO BASSEY: Yeah, I have that, and I also have the secondary badge. These two badges ought to permit us to come in.

    AMY GOODMAN: Why did you need a secondary badge?

    NNIMMO BASSEY: This is what they use to prune down the number of people taking part in the — taking part in the — I mean, who could — you needed this as an NGO person, has a secondary badge to be able to come inside here.

    AMY GOODMAN: Today.

    NNIMMO BASSEY: Today, yes.

    AMY GOODMAN: And when did they inform you you wouldn’t be allowed?

    NNIMMO BASSEY: Oh, we didn’t know we wouldn’t be allowed until we got to the security check, when our ID cards were scanned.

    CHRIS ANKERSON: Sir? Thank you very much.

    AMY GOODMAN: When what?

    NNIMMO BASSEY: This morning when we got to the security gate, and they checked out — I mean, they just — they told us that we are not going to be allowed in.

    CHRIS ANKERSON: Mr. Bassey, I’m asking you politely —-


    CHRIS ANKERSON: [inaudible], please.

    UNIDENTIFIED: Sir, can you tell what is happening? Can you tell us?

    NNIMMO BASSEY: Yes, yes.

    UNIDENTIFIED: What’s the criteria?

    JOSÉ BOVÉ: Don’t -— don’t hold me. Don’t touch me. I’m a member of the Parliament. You don’t touch me now. Please, you don’t touch me. I’m member of the Parliament, so you don’t touch me, OK?

    CHRIS ANKERSON: You need to move out of the way, sir, please.

    NNIMMO BASSEY: Yeah, sure.

    JOSÉ BOVÉ: Stop — stop touching me, OK?

    CHRIS ANKERSON: Mr. Bassey, sir? Please come.


    UNIDENTIFIED: Very easy question: What is happening? What are you doing?

    CHRIS ANKERSON: We’re escorting Mr. Bassey to speak to his people.

    JOSÉ BOVÉ: You know, you’re making a big mistake here.

    CHRIS ANKERSON: You are not letting us do that.

    JOSÉ BOVÉ: This man has —- you’re putting out one of the most important NGO which is here, representing -—

    UNIDENTIFIED: Why the rules have changed? You have to explain us. Why the rules have changed this morning? You told us we could come in.

    JOSÉ BOVÉ: — thousand of people.

    CHRIS ANKERSON: Could you please?

    NNIMMO BASSEY: Now, what do you want me to do? I walk — do I go [inaudible] —-

    CHRIS ANKERSON: [inaudible] accompany us. I want you to come this way, please, sir, so I can take you to your organization.

    NNIMMO BASSEY: No, I’m -— yeah, of course. I’m going with you.

    CHRIS ANKERSON: You’re refusing [inaudible] —-

    NNIMMO BASSEY: No, no, I’m going with you. But my people are waiting this way, and we’re going this way.

    CHRIS ANKERSON: And we want to help you find -— I want to find you a way to get there.

    NNIMMO BASSEY: Yeah, sure, sure.

    JOSÉ BOVÉ: Sorry, sorry, you must explain who’s expulsed this morning. Why?

    AMY GOODMAN: Nnimmo Bassey, Nnimmo Bassey, the situation for climate change in Nigeria?

    NNIMMO BASSEY: Oh, it’s very horrendous, and we are — the impact of climate change in Nigeria is incredible. We have ocean surges. We have desertification for the north, drought, all the evils — the oil corporations burning gas relentlessly.


    AMY GOODMAN: José Bové, why have you come to this meeting, to begin with? As a member of the European Parliament, why do you feel it’s important?

    JOSÉ BOVÉ: Well, you know, I came here because I thought that inside of the United Nations we can find a solution about the climate change. And what we are seeing, that the debate between the NGO, the poor people, and the governments is no more possible at two days of the end of this meeting. And most of the people of the NGOs, which are struggling at the local level, are expulsed from this big meeting. And this really is a pity, and this is a shame, because what does that mean for United Nations to expulse people who are fighting day after day at the local level to change what’s happening, to try to defend the poor people, to defend the farmers, the indigenous people and so on? So this is completely incredible, what’s happening.

AMY GOODMAN: That was José Bové. He is now a European Union parliamentarian. He is the famous farmer from the south of France who, more than ten years ago, hammered on the golden arches of McDonald’s in France to protest the World Trade Organization and US decisions around tariffs in France. He was sitting down just near the entrance here at the Bella Center, protesting the fact that Nnimmo Bassey, who is chair of Friends of the Earth International, was being thrown out of this conference center, despite the fact that he has spoken in news conferences here and is seen as a leader of the environmental movement in Nigeria and in the international environmental movement around the world.

We just got word on Twitter that World Wildlife Fund, WWF, has now just said that they are being prohibited from passing out flyers, something that hundreds of organizations are doing here within the Bella Center, what many are considering the Bella of the beast.

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