A royal setting for climate protests

December 12, 2009 12:00 am

, COPENHAGEN, Dec 12 – Tens of thousands climate activists hoping to pressure UN negotiators into sealing a planet-saving deal readied slogans and signboards for a massive march Saturday through Copenhagen.

Organisers forecast a turnout of 60,000 to 80,000, while police drawn from every corner of the kingdom of Denmark braced for crowds they estimated would number some 50,000.

The day before, Danish authorities rounded up dozens of anti-capitalist demonstrators in a bid to forestall possible violence.

Environmentalists from labour, youth, political and faith groups have flocked to the Danish capital from all over the world as the December 7-18 crunch climate summit hits the half way point.

Late Friday, demonstrators were still arriving by bus, train, plane and boat from Berlin, Bremen, London, Leeds, Amsterdam, Milan and a dozen other European cities.

The six-kilometre (four-mile) march, masterminded by 515 organisations from 67 countries, will depart at 1300 GMT from the Christiansborg Castle, crossing the city to end up at the Bella Centre where the climate conference will be underway.

An armada of 17 ships, their sails transformed into climate-themed tableaus, will be visible as the crowd sets off.

Police beefed up security at Denmark\’s land and sea borders to prevent troublemakers from entering the country amid fears Saturday\’s march through the capital could be joined by violent far-left groups.

On Friday they arrested 75 Danish and international sympathisers of the "Our Climate – Not Your Business" movement which held demonstrations around the city under the banner "Don\’t buy the lie."

Shop keepers and businesses along the route of the march were warned of possible violence.

One of the march\’s main organisers, Oxfam, has lined up celebrities to join in a rally before the protests sets out.

Angelique Kidjo, a Grammy-winner singer and songwriter from Benin, is also a UN goodwill ambassador.

Danish-Peruvian model and photographer Helena Christensen, Bollywood actor Rahul Bose of India, and Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo will all be part of the climate cortege.

At the end of the procession, former Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa will lead a candlelight vigil, one of some 3,000 set to take place in 130 countries around the world organised by civil society climate groups 350.org, TckTckTck and AVAAZ.

They were supporting a demand by the Association of Small Island Nations that the world commit to preventing global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit), said 350.org founder Bill McKibben.

"These are tiny nations, but they have an army behind them, an army of civil society the world over who understand that these are the only people at this conference talking about scientific reality," he said.

The climate conference will pause Sunday as ministers from most of the 194 countries taking part start to arrive.

At least 110 heads of state and government will follow later in the week, gathering on December 18 for a crunch climate summit.

A official draft text of the final accord released Friday crystallised debate, but also put a spotlight on the huge gaps remaining between the positions of developed and developing countries.


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