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"Don't Kill Africa": Climate Activists Occupy Durban Talks Demanding Binding Emissions Cuts

StoryDecember 12, 2011
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During the final official day of the United Nations climate change talks in Durban on Friday, more than 150 activists "occupied" the conference as they marched through the halls calling for a fair, legally binding agreement before being told to leave by U.N. security. Protesters were careful not to disrupt the actual negotiations and said a delay in action on climate change could cause large swaths of Africa to be uninhabitable. "Unlike some of the governments in these negotiations, who talk democracy in one voice and engage in awful acts of human rights abuses on the other... we will show the highest tradition of peaceful, civil disobedience, which is our right," says Kumi Naidoo, executive director of Greenpeace International, one of those expelled after the protest. [includes rush transcript]


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

AMY GOODMAN: As we continue on the issue of climate change, on Friday, just before the talks ended, more than 150 climate justice activists at the talks called for a breakthrough in the talks there. They marched through the conference hall in Durban before being told to leave by U.N. security. The head of Greenpeace, Kumi Naidoo, was among those expelled after the protest. This is a report from what many called Occupy COP 17, though protesters were careful not to disrupt the actual negotiations.

PROTESTER 1: [echoed by People’s Mic] Mic check! I have a song. It means, "The struggle goes on." Sing along. [singing]

PROTESTER 2: [echoed by People’s Mic] Mic check! Mic check! Right now, Kumi and some others are talking with security. What we’d like to do is come up with an option for you. Like The Kinks, should we stay, or should we go?

KUMI NAIDOO: [echoed by People’s Mic] Now, we are challenged to show the highest level of maturity, dignity and courage. We will show, unlike some of the governments in these negotiations, who talk democracy in one voice and engage in awful acts of human rights abuses on the other, that we will show the highest tradition of peaceful, civil disobedience, which is our right. When we get debadged, it means that we cannot come back into the negotiations.

PROTESTER 3: [echoed by People’s Mic] I personally think that we should sit down and that we should stay, so our voices will be heard. And if security wants our badges, they can come and take them.

ZAID SHOPEJU: My name is Zaid Shopeju, and I’m from Nigeria. I’m standing with the people, and not the polluters. We need a deal here. I will be disbadged right now. I’ll be sent out of this conference, and I’m ready for that. It’s a small price to pay. It’s a small price to pay for the future of our children. It’s a small price to pay for the people of Africa. It’s a small price to pay for humanity. And I’m ready to pay for that.

AARON PACKARD: Aaron Packard. I’m from New Zealand. I work for 350.org in the Oceania region, working with young people in 19 Pacific island nations and territories. And they’re all experiencing the front line of climate change. And that’s why I’m here today, to stand in solidarity. And I know they are behind me every step of this way. I’m going to go and sit down. And as is happening now, they will tap me on the shoulder, and they will take my badge, and I’ll go peacefully, but with determination.

AMY GOODMAN: Some of the voices from climate justice protesters who marched through the Albert Luthuli conference center hosting the U.N. climate talks in Durban Friday. Special thanks to Hany Massoud and John Hamilton. The Albert Luthuli conference center named for the first African to win the Nobel Peace Prize. He was the former head, the late head, of the African National Congress. His deputy was Nelson Mandela, another Nobel Peace Prize winner.

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