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“We Want People Power Solutions”: Activists Ousted from COP25 for Protesting Corporations at Summit

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Inside the halls of the U.N. climate summit, hundreds of activists gathered Wednesday to demand rich countries step up their efforts to finance climate action. The protest began just as Democracy Now! was finishing our live broadcast, and we spoke to some of the people there from around the world, including Rita Iyke-Uwaka of Friends of the Earth Nigeria; Angela Valenzuela of Fridays for Future in Santiago, Chile; Sandra Tukup of CONFENIAE (Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon); Amalen Sathananthar of Artivist Network; Brandon Wu of ActionAid USA; and Nina Gualinga, an indigenous leader of the Kichwa community of Sarayaku in the Ecuadorian Amazon.

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

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman. We’re broadcasting from inside the U.N. climate summit here in Madrid, Spain. Just hours after Greta Thunberg slammed world leaders for ignoring climate science at the plenary on Wednesday, and just as Time magazine announced she was their choice for Person of the Year, hundreds of activists gathered to demand rich countries take more drastic action to address the climate crisis. The protest began just as we were finishing our live broadcast.

AMY GOODMAN: Right now the protesters are walking by us, by Tom and Karin. Security opened up what looks like a large garage door. They’re holding the front person, who’s got his hand up in a fist. And now hundreds of people are passing us as they walk out of the COP. As they walk out of the COP, it’s not clear why they’re walking out of the COP.

TOM GOLDTOOTH: They shouldn’t. They’ll lose their badges.

AMY GOODMAN: But what they’re doing — Tom, why don’t you explain?

TOM GOLDTOOTH: They should not go.

KARIN NANSEN: They shouldn’t go.

TOM GOLDTOOTH: There’s a possibility that they’re going to lose their badges. Don’t follow. You’re going to lose your badges.

AMY GOODMAN: Tom is afraid that they will lose their badges —

KARIN NANSEN: Yes. They shouldn’t leave.

AMY GOODMAN: — if they walk out of the COP.

PROTESTERS: Shame on you! Shame on you! Shame on you!

RITA IYKE-UWAKA: My name is Rita Iyke-Uwaka. I’m from Nigeria. I represent Friends of the Earth. We want sustainable solutions. We want people power solutions. We want solutions that connect the people to the ground. There are a lot of devastation in communities in different landscapes across the world. People are dying every day for sins they did not commit. And we are here to say, “No more corruption with our COP. We want the people’s voice to be heard. We want a climate just solution. We don’t want capital markets. We want people power solutions.” And that’s why we are calling on our governments, on COP to listen to the voice of the people. That is why we are here. We will not be coerced. We’d like to quickly call on another speaker. Her name is Angela.

ANGELA VALENZUELA: We are here in solidarity with Chile, with Chile and other countries that are facing human rights violations. We are here in solidarity with the frontline communities, with the millions of people in the Global South who are facing the worst of the climate crisis. We are here because we haven’t forgotten about them, about our present and our future. We are here because we need our governments to listen to us. This last week, it’s been all about profit, carbon markets, nature-based solutions that don’t respond to the needs of people and nature. If we unite, we can have a present and a future grounded in justice.

PROTESTERS: No false solutions! No false solutions! No false solutions!

AMALEN SATHANANTHAR: We have one last speaker. She’s from the Amazon. And she’s here to share one last thing with all of you here.

SANDRA TUKUP: [translated] My name is Sandra Tukup. I am from the Ecuadorian Amazon. And I am here because our territories are being violated. Those industries that are causing climate change are polluting our rivers and our territories. We are here because we’re defending our territory. We’re defending biodiversity. We’re defending the planet. We’re defending the rivers. Because you know that in each and every one of us, we have water. We are water. Because without the water, we cannot live. Without our territory, without our soil, we cannot live. Without the Earth, we cannot live, no matter how much money we have. The Earth is our mother. And we are here to tell the big industries to stop violating our territories, to stop destroying our lands.

RITA IYKE-UWAKA: Keep polluters out! Let the people in!

PROTESTERS: Keep polluters out! Let the people in!

RITA IYKE-UWAKA: Keep polluters out! Let the people in!

PROTESTERS: Keep polluters out! Let the people in!

AMALEN SATHANANTHAR: This is what will happen. They have decided that they don’t want us there. They are debadging us. How can they!

My name is Amalen, Amalen Sathananthar from Malaysia. I’m part of the ArtivistNetwork.org.

AMY GOODMAN: So, what happened to your badge?

AMALEN SATHANANTHAR: They were not happy that I decided to help and join this movement. And they were not happy with what I had to say. They took my badge immediately and tried to throw me out.

AMY GOODMAN: Who opened the garage door?

AMALEN SATHANANTHAR: The UNFCCC security. They were so afraid of us that they wanted to get rid of us as soon as possible. That’s something completely ridiculous. We spend months and months and months trying to get accreditation, trying to plan out things that happen inside here. But they refuse to listen to us. They refuse to listen to our voice. And that is just blasphemy.

AMY GOODMAN: Why did you go outside?

AMALEN SATHANANTHAR: We went outside because they forced us out.

BRANDON WU: Brandon Wu, ActionAid USA. We were actually kettled by U.N. security. They pushed us outside, out this door, and then they actually closed the door behind us. And there were people who didn’t even intend to be part of this.

PROTESTERS: Hey hey, ho ho! Fossil fuel has got to go! Hey hey, ho ho!

NINA GUALINGA: My name is Nina Siren Gualinga, and I am from the Kichwa people of Sarayaku in the Ecuadorian Amazon. We were having this action inside demanding climate justice and action on today’s climate crisis.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you tell us why you came here from the Ecuadorian Amazon?

NINA GUALINGA: Because extractive industries are destroying our lands, our communities. They’re violating our women. They’re taking away our children’s future. And yeah, I was victim of that violence as a child, and it’s really — yeah, it’s really painful. And indigenous peoples are the ones that are taking care of these lands and biodiversity and protecting forests, protecting water, yet we’re not being listened to. We’re not being included in these conversations. And yeah, we’re being lined up to march us like animals, with police around us. And we should be inside there.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Nina Gualinga, climate activist from Sarayaku in the Ecuadorian Amazon. 350.org and a coalition of climate activists issued a statement after protesters were ejected by security here at the climate summit, saying, quote, “This has never happened before in 25 years of negotiations.” After negotiating with the U.N. climate body organizing the summit, the UNFCCC, demonstrators eventually got their badges back and were allowed to reenter the climate conference today. Thursday morning, activists held a news conference to address yesterday’s protests. This is Jean Su with the Center for Biological Diversity.

JEAN SU: And instead of listening to us yesterday, there was a heavy-handed crackdown upon civil society. Hundreds of us were corralled like cattle into a concrete box outside of these premises and then were marched in cold without our jackets for hours. This is exactly what has been happening across the world. We have been shut out, and we have not been heard. We, the people, have been kept out, while the very polluters who drive this crisis are kept in. We refuse to have that happen. And today we are going to allow for the people who are suffering at the frontlines to speak about what they are demanding from governments.

AMY GOODMAN: Again, that was Jean Su with the Center for Biological Diversity.

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