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Are we serious? the shambles in Copenhagen

dariush | 23.12.2009 23:25 | COP15 Climate Summit 2009 | Ecology | Birmingham | World

A personal account of the failure of the protests in Copenhagen. It's all too easy to blame that nasty "police repression" for the lack of fizz of the demos in Denmark -- but were the protests ever serious?

I'm neither a summit-hopper nor a pacifist, yet the plan for mass non-violent action at the COP 15 Climate summit in Copenhagen caught my imagination. "Using only the force of our bodies", went the call-out by the Climate Justice Action network, "we will overcome any physical barriers that stand in our way" to "push into the conference area and enter the building, disrupt the sessions" and hold a "horizontal" assembly.

Images of the raid on the Dharasana salt works, May 21 1930, thousands of Gandhian satyagrahis advancing into lines of barbed wire and police clubs. "Not one of the marchers even raised an arm to fend off the blows. They went down like ten-pins."1 Still they kept advancing, naked body and naked will against the physical barriers, pain barriers, fear barriers of the state. As the philosopher Spinoza said -- we just don't know what a body can do.2

My comrade and travelling companion Leo and I discussed -- could we do a Dharasana? Maybe I should note that we're a pair of sexual perverts who like torturing each other for fun, so perhaps anarcho-masochism has some kinky charge for us. All the same, we decided we might not have it in us. Yes we would be in the front line on December 16th, we would keep moving forward, we wouldn't attack the police -- but we couldn't promise in advance not to defend ourselves.

Apart from the night before, I attended none of the planning meetings for the December 16th action. So I can't say how the decisions were originally made on the non-violence position, on the route, where and how to try and broach the fence, on dividing the action up into separate blocs, etc. We were more involved with the No Borders demonstration of Monday 14th. The Danish parliament had rushed through emergency legislation allowing summary "preventive arrest" of demonstrators without grounds, threatening 40 day sentences for failure to disperse on police orders. On the 12th and 13th the police wiped the floor with the demonstrators, smashing through lines to surround and mass arrest hundreds at a time, who were taken off to special detention "cages".

My South American comrade proposed a new tactic for the monday action -- following the example of the Argentinian piqueteros we would move as a tight collective body surrounded by defensive lines at the front, rear and sides. In Argentina the piqueteros cordon off the sides with a line of guards clasping sticks. There was no way we could get sticks to the demo so, yes, we would use our bodies alone, arms linked in chains along the sides. The No Borders demo would have borders.

It worked beautifully. Maybe the police were just a bit weary after the weekend, but we stayed tight and protected each other. Every time they tried to pick off someone we massed together an impenetrable wall. It's true the named target, the ministry of defence, remained untouched, but that didn't stop the day being a big morale boost as we romped through Copenhagen, running in packs, playing ball with a giant globe in parliament square, watching protecting supporting each other all the time as we advanced, retreated, moved again.

At the end the demo made it all safe into the squatter town of Christiania,where the police turned and left looking bemused and backfooted. A Danish journalist asked me -- "is the score now one-all?" However the police retaliated with a punitive raid that night -- they attacked Christiania with teargas and took away 200 hostages. Chased from the barricades, we watched from a frosted attic window as they took the streets gestapo-fashion and went door to door. We were sheltered, then pushed out, by a gang of drunken eskimos -- but that's another story.

On Wednesday morning we joined the blue block, the big wedge of the big demo, in the front line group. It started well as we followed Monday's tactics, all linked arm in arm with double protective chains along the sides. When the police tried to block or grab we surged en masse and filled the space. We made it to Bella centre in high spirits shouting "A -- Anti -- Anticapitalista".

Now the lines were drawn. On our left a moat or canal separated us from the Bella centre. On the other side of the canal a thin wire fence, and police on the bank. The road ahead, with police vans about 100 metres away. And one bridge across the moat, maybe 20 metres wide, blocked by police vans, then a wire fence behind it, then more police, then the final fence, then our destination. Our line rushed towards the bridge and pushed up tight against the first line of police. Others human-chained off the road ahead to stop a charge from in front.

In hindsight I'm quite clear what we needed to do. We had the momentum, we should have pushed straight across the bridge, over the vans, pushed down the fences and rushed in the front door. We heavily outnumbered the police. We were knitted tight together in solidarity, and ready to advance.

Then the first fuck-up -- at the very front of the demo with the banners was a group of "delegates" from the Klimaforum, the alternative "peoples summit". These were the ones who were going to open the "peoples' assembly" we would hold once inside with a round of speeches (something we hadn't been properly informed of at the meeting the night before, where the peoples' assembly was promised to be fully "horizontal"). They were honchos from Latin American and Pacific indigenous movements, from the peasant movement Via Campesina, so-called spokespeople of the "global south", with their NGO-worker followers many from the Northern end of the Americas.

Even leaving aside the political disaster here -- opposing the representative claims of Obama et al. inside with just another dose of representative politics (who speaks for the "global south"? who speaks for anyone?) -- these people posed a directly practical threat to the action. They simply weren't signed up to civil disobedience. When we started pushing against the police line on the bridge, to put it bluntly, they fled to the back.

Meanwhile my own beloved comrade from the global south received a blast of pepper spray straight in the eyes and we had to get her away from the front line. After a few minutes she could see again and was ready to get back to the action. But now the second fuck-up -- a young English activist, who had told us the night before that his affinity group was working on a cunning plan to get through the fences, asked us to help secure a space where they could assemble their secret weapon. This turned out to be a kind of wobbly lilo raft that didn't even make it all the way across the moat. A few precarious individuals stumbled to the end of it to get pepper-eyed and yapped at by Alsations.

But it was clear the spirit of resistance had gone fully limp when we heard announcements that the "peoples' assembly" was now in session sat down on the road behind us. That is, the NGO-ists had, within less than 30 minutes, abandoned the assault on the Bella centre altogether. The rest of us were to be left doing security duty around them. After cursing the delegates in shouted Spanish for a few minutes we decided to leave them to it, go home to get drunk and fuck and cry. The police happily pointed us in the way of the nearest train station.

This was my first, and quite possibly last, international summit protest. I was not in Seattle, Genova, etc. I don't know if there was ever any real thing called a global anti-capitalist movement born in Seattle -- but if there was, maybe Copenhagen was its last gasp. In fact the signs were there as early as monday night when as the police attacked Christiania "activists" who had been to a Naomi Klein talk went on dancing at the after-party. "Is it really serious?" asked a party organiser when told the police were gassing and hounding us just outside.

We can ask the same question about the action in Copenhagen. My first reactions on Wednesday were disgust and indignation at the sheer cowardice of many of the demonstrators. But on reflection, the charge of cowardice maybe assumes that others had indeed committed to civil disobedience "using only the force of our bodies". More likely the "delegates" and their hangers-on had never even read the call-out with its Gandhian pretensions. Their agenda was just different -- to hold another token meeting in a road somewhere.

But then it was an organisational cock-up to try and include the "delegates" in the demo, let alone put them at the front. If you want to hold a meeting in a road, hold it somewhere visible and accessible in the centre of town and involve the people of the city. If you want to do mass civil disobedience, do it with commitment and full clarity, united in taking the risks and beatings. We did neither, just a messed up hodgepodge. Far from serious.

The point is that you can't cobble together satyagraha in a few days. Reading the history of the Gandhian movement in India, or, say, the civil rights movement in the US, what can impress even more than the achievements was the process -- dedication, preparation, psychological and organisational training -- involved. Gandhi talked of the satyagrahis as a well-disciplined "army". Even when practised on a small scale, non-violent direct action that puts bodies at stake calls for serious discipline -- cf. the intense training of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) before the freedom rides and lunch counter actions. As for successful civil disobedience on a mass scale, it's as rare as unicorns -- indeed many of Gandhi's attempts collapsed or broke down into plain old fashioned riots.

Gandhi once said that when true nonviolence is unachievable, "where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence."3 Here is a Gandhian "truth" second rate hippy-pacifists won't face up to. Non-violent mass action is not something you can improvise on the fly. Indeed, to try and impose a non-violent party line on thousands of protestors is an authoritarian pretence.

What a gathering of a few thousand random protestors can do is form a mob, in which each, when face to face with truncheon and pepper spay, follows the calling of her own body, and sets free her own movement and force, hard or soft as it may be. What we did on Wednesday was to hobble the creative force of our mob with systematic (if surely unintentional) effect via a number of key organisational decisions.

But still, I'm not sure that fully explains why Wednesday was such a total wash-out. After the NGO-istas fled why didn't we just jump on those police vans anyway, as much smaller demos manage all the time? Because it was a crowd of mainly complacent middle class students with nothing serious to win or lose? Was that any different in Genova or Seattle?

Lots more questions. One false answer which shouldn't lead us astray: we can't put our failure down to that horrid "police repression". For one thing, pepper spray and truncheons, as any activist from the "global south" can tell you, is not even the beginning of serious repression. Second, despite said "repression", we did get there in our thousands to the Bella centre. It's not the police we have to blame for the failure of our resistance. We don't know what a body, individual or collective, can do -- and on Wednesday we were very far from finding out.


1Eyewitness journalist Webb Miller in "I Found no Peace".
2Ethics III prop II note
3Non-Violence in Peace & War. Navajivan Publishing House, Ahmedabad, 1942.



Hide the following 19 comments

Interesting to kick start a analysis of the Reclaim Power action

24.12.2009 01:41

The G13 public squatting action in Copenhagen a few years ago was a mass non-confrontational success. I guess the spirits just died a bit in the last few years. Interesting article that at least tries to look beyond 'repression' and at the lack of will that dominated the Bella centre action that Wednesday. Hopefully more of those who were there can write something about the particular mood and fairly dismal action that day. Also where was the black block? Haven't read a single account that suggests that the BB were present in Copenhagen. Maybe as a tactic, people decided it wasn't worth it or wouldn't work?


mmm mostly agree....

24.12.2009 11:17

the main strand of your argument - that we were largely to blame for the pathetic failure of reclaim power is definatly the case.

it was a shambles on arrival at the fence....where i was we ended up standing still while the press took photos and did some interviews with the people at the front...all the while the police were getting more organised.

The whole organisation of the action was flawed - splitting up into different blocs only works if you have a significant number of people - instead the green group and the bike block largerly just split our strength...and they contained largely people who would have put up a bit of a fight....

The british affinity attempt at crossing the moat...although great to see people thinking independently and being prepared and a little wasn't going to work...the best chance was down at those police vans...

wierdly enough british activists were some of the most radical in town and we needed you guys at the front....

The saddest part was actually being physically pushed back from the fences by a group of about 6 activists from france who had decided to duck out

The actual number of activists that turned up in copenhagen was just pitiful...the scale of the crisis...the urgency...the state of the UNFCCC...and we get 4,000 activists...thats not that much bigger than a UK climate camp....

oh and @A, about 60 BB were there at the big march on the saturday...a few bricks were thrown, fireworks at the police...then they disapeered.


I agree

24.12.2009 12:34

I was there on the demo and it felt like a waste of time, If we are going to actually suceed we need at the very least protection against batons pepper spray etc. Also the whole movement needs to get away from this crappy dichotomy of violence and non violence which personally brings down the movement.

norwich anarchist

More on Repression

24.12.2009 13:04

Thanks for an interesting article. I think the points about repression are particularly important. There is a tendency amongst activists to impose grandiose comparisons on the repression we receive rather than adopting a pragmatic approach and working out ways to fight what is going on.

Yes, there was repression in Copenhagen - and a lot of innocent people did endure a nasty experience - and I hope anyone who was traumatised receives the help and support they deserve. However, it was nothing on a global scale, and we gain nothing by representing ourselves as victims.

The other reality is there was a sizeable black bloc on the march on Saturday, and the policing operation was the most effective descimation of a European bloc I have seen. The way in which the march was divided and people separated was so sudden and unexpected and caught many people by surprise.

However, we need to fight and resist these tactics and repression. We might have failed in Copenhagen, but we can work to adapt our tactics and work out effective methods of resisting and ensure future protest is both successful and empowering.

Random protester

high targets.

24.12.2009 13:45

I was inside the police cordon when the blue wave arrived, having walked from tagelholmen. there is no way that the blue block was ever going to get inside the bella centre. not a chance. i didnt see the mass cowardice and pants wetting that you saw, maybe it was a different bella centre, who knows? i can tell you that at a cja meeting on the thursday after alot of these points were raised. general lack of communication between ranhildegade and tagelholmen, the journalists were between us and the police as well as your point about the "NGO-istas" and other inexperienced marchers being at the front. these are all fair points. for me however, its not the points you raise in your article, but the generic 'indymedia pessimist' style is soo boring. for me if the phrase "middle class students" comes up in this kind of context then its just not worth reading for me because anyone who has such an elitist approach to demos just doesnt have a clue. you march with whoever will march with you. i mean who were you honestly expecting to turn up?


Rethinking / planning responses to police 'kettling'

24.12.2009 16:21

Yes, the Danish cops are very good at super quick actions that surround and isolate large blocks and totally incapacitate them. It might be time to begin to think of actions and strategies that can be put into place after this happens (as in London's 'kettles' i.e enclosure of demonstrators).

Usually it seems a bit like 'game over' when people are corralled but there's nothing to stop us still acting in solidarity with each other to escape, mobilise, act from within esp as the first 10 minutes is usually the time when the police are less thick and in control. It was great that some of the prisoners in the temporary prison in Copenhagen tried to smash the place up even though they ended up gassed.

What is possible if we get kettled or corraled? Although I wasn't there, I kept thinking 'why do all these people allow themselves to sit in the 'train' position that the Danish cops put them in'? What would the cops do, if everyone just got up and said no and tried to undo each other's plastic cuffs?


its getting desperate now

24.12.2009 19:17

good article. thanks.

just a few points, aimed at no one in particular:

1st - well done to those that got off their behinds to go and take part in the various actions...and yes, there was this and that to discuss, but overall, people being there had it in everyone else's minds and all over the news and tv and radio. so well done. propaganda for the cause is as important in cases like cop-15. it brings debate and discussion of future tactics and actions.

2nd - The police are all working together, so it doesn't surprise me that police tactics are appearing to match all over the globe, 'banning' legal demo's and halting non-violent demo's with extreme aggression. we know this is how they act, we need to prepare for next time. padded clothing must be one of the only ways, why has this tactic gone away?

3rd - there was blac bloc actions, although some christianians called some of the international blac bloc amateurs for setting fire barricades WITHIN christiania, near to wooden homes. considering both sides on the 'beef' over the fires, it seems the internationals may have not had much choice on fighting police as best they could with the surrounding resources and location. im sure it was regretable

4th - the mass media completely buried the worst of police violence,which isn't the worst in the world, true, but it shows that ghandism will not work. they will greenwash any ghandist style actions in future by spinning the news. so the end of the non-violent versus violent actions must be now! the world is waiting, not wanting more arguments. the "powers that be" dont bicker and fight amongst themselves as much as we, the revolutionaries do. they come together to resist us, so we must abandon our secterianism and CONSTANT arguing about the same stuff, blac bloc vs fluffy, etc.

5th - 'anti-capitalist' groups, actions and demo's are on the rise. this means we are having an effect and our work is not unnoticed or useless. we are getting bigger but we must act fiercer now than we have ever fought before.

6th - high intensity is what is called for, so a higher level of intense actions instead of lots of low level intensity actions. for example, instead of demo'ing outside a consulate, destroy the fucking place. instead of throwing rocks at banks and cops, throw grenades and bombs. instead of wishing for anarchism, build it and live it. attacking the system is a part of it, but building anarchism is as well.

7th - ignore our enemies pleas and lies. the news, the people in the street with their generic views, the reactionaries, they will never come round to our way of thinking - so forget them, ignore them, dont be bothered by them. they are either part of the solution or the problem. simple as that. let them decide for themselves after we act, not before!

8th - fight on...for the earth, there is no chance of surrender, so we must fight on...

we all knew jokenhagen would be a flop. we all said that on here months ago. so lets not forget that they will surface again soon enough and we will be waiting and planning and chasing them down......


Building anarchism

25.12.2009 14:38

Fran wrote 'throw grenades and bombs. instead of wishing for anarchism, build it and live it.'

I doubt people throwing bombs and grenades (if they can actually get holf of any) will help build any form of anarchist movement outside of those attracted to the illusions of social war. Usually it just means that police repress any resistance and those doing the actions get locked up for a long time. A bit pointless really.

I find talk to people about ideas and working on community projects works a lot better in building practical exampes of solidarity and resistance. It's not as spectacular and symbolic as blowing things up but it helps change people's lives for the better (including my own).

Double AA

good analysis, but some more ideas on the 'cowardice'

25.12.2009 21:44

Maybe the author wasn't in Genoa or Seattle, but I can say from experience of Genoa and a number of previous summit 'hops' that the analysis of NGO types, middle-class pacifists, and students "imposing" non-violence and a warped version of Ghandian pacificism on people hasn't changed. And we still speak of going 'beyond the false dichotmy' of violence and non-violence: well I suggest that it is US who starts going beyond this to be the change, rather than waiting for the press or others (who will NEVER go beyond this) to start doing so.

Mind you, J18, Genoa, anti-G8 in Lausanne, etc., there were plenty of people willing to risk getting hit (or more). My impression though is that the issue of climate change has become evangelical - not enough anger and too much self-righteous posturing. It makes me feel uncomfortable to be involved in; I want to be surrounded by people who are angry and willing to act, not people who act like they're missionaries spreading a gospel. I'm not part of BB but maybe this is why they stayed away?


explaining what i thought was obvious

26.12.2009 11:01

im perhaps confusing you, sorry. but i meant on the one hand attack capitalism with whatever we can, guns bombs and paint, whatever, and at the SAME time, build our anarchist communities. i thought you'd realise that.....both at the same time,not one of the other. its so simple.

anarchism of the late 18 hundreds is still something of a relative factor, but those activist where active in different times. the system can spin any action however it does not need to worry about too much propaganda of the deed. so now its time to forget about the arguing, and fight fight fight, whilst at the same time build our communities. why are my comments so hard to swallow? am i alone on this?



26.12.2009 15:41

I'm not sure that shambles is the right word.

It's always difficult to assess success and I'm not going to try. However, to some degree the aims of the mobilisations were achieved. Many months before the plan had emerged to hold the so-called people assemble on the 16th, supposedly by breaking into the summit and 'taking it over'. Now obviously that didn't happen but we can't measure success simply on the basis of the ambitious aims we set ourselves in advance. For example, in 2008 the Camp for Climate Action said it would break into Kingsnorth and shut it down yet only a handful of people actually got into the grounds and came nowhere close to being able to shut it down - on the other hand, the power station was shut down, by the company itself, for the whole period of the camp, just in case - then, months later, a call for 48 hours of action against Eon resulted in a lone activist shutting down the half the power station for several hours, cutting 2% of the nations CO2 emissions in one act for which nobody has been prosecuted. So, let's not try to judge the copenhagen mobilisations simply on the basis of its boastful public proclamations.

The COP15 mobilisation did manage to get several thousand people to the very edges of the venue (way closer than at Glen Eagles during the G8 for example) and hold the 'assembly' pretty much as planned. Had it been 100 yards further south, insider the fences of the Bella Centre, it would have been a purely symbolic addition. We might have claimed it as an amazing victory but really, what difference would it actually have made?

What of the plan itself that got people to that point? The bike bloc worked pretty well, moving fairly freely, slowing down cop movements, holding space for others to act etc. The green bloc was quickly neutralised and autonomous groups seem to have achieved nothing that has become apparent. How can we possibly know what effect the existence of those additional groups had on police plans and actions on the day? Prehaps the pre-published existence of the green bloc meant that autonomous actions around the fences became impossible but on the other hand, perhaps it lead to the police deciding to allow the blue bloc to reach the Bella Centre rather than be broken up or contained elsewhere. Personally I doubt the numbers in those other blocs would have made much of a difference to the size of effectiveness of the blue bloc, and having those additional people to mobilise separately did provide potential should it have been required (ie. had the blue bloc been contained before reaching the Bella Centre).

The blue bloc (in fact the whole mobilisation) was much smaller than we'd have liked. I guess just 4,000 people took part in the Reclaim Power protests and after the 100,000 on the streets seen on saturday, that's obviously disappointing. Many people might put that down to the fear instilled by the cops during the week but I watched my accommodation space go from rammed to almost empty on sunday morning as people got back on their coaches to head home after taking part in the saturday march. Those people had always planned to leave, they never intended to stay till wednesday. I suspect that the vast majority who'd come to protest and were still there by wednesday would have been involved in Reclaim Power regardless of the cop actions during the week.

What else? What about the pontoon bridge action? I think it was inspired but probably a distraction which was attempted too soon without allowing the crowd enough time to attempt to overun the police lines and fences. The bridge should have been a tool of last resort since it was never going to manage to get enough people across in time to achieve the goal of securing a space within the Bella Centre grounds to hold the assembly. As a last resort it would have pulled a symbolic victory out of the hat by allowing a few people to dance on the far banks and perhaps run around a little before being arrested. As it was, the bridge created division which required the whole crowd to from protective lines rather than continue to attempt to push through police lines, and it's prolonged and fruitless outcome left false hope in some people who then felt betrayed when the peoples assembly set up.

Was this a failure of planning and communication? I attended several of the open 'planning' meetings during the preceding days and realised that no serious planning was taking place there, nor could it. With plain clothes cops in the meetings, any attempt to assign roles, comms structure etc would have been foolish. In other words, that kind of stuff must have been happening in smaller 'closed' meetings, probably between people who had already worked with each other. It would have been very difficult for those groups to make the links necessary to communicate effectively during the action or to ensure individual plans did not conflict but instead compliment each other. I did see attempts to make this happen but in the chaos and distraction of random raids and arrests in the days leading up to the 16th.... well, lets just say such attempts were not easy.

On the day itself there was apparently some kind of comms and decision making structure put in place but, without going into detail, some elements of it were extremely badly thought out and prone to police disruption. The predictable happened and I have no idea whether any semblance of effective comms structure remained in place from that point.

Of course, had there been more people and more people who were up for really pushing things, then perhaps comms and plans etc would have been almost irrelevant. It is true that simple force of numbers, mob mentality and a more confrontational attitude might have resulted in large numbers pushing through into the centre. Im not sure what that would have really achieved either, but then I've never really understood what we hoped to achieve at this summit.


My tuppence

26.12.2009 19:30

Thanks to the original poster and the comment-makers!

Media coverage of Copenhagen has been predictably poor, even in the alternative sector. I guess everyone who went there would end up with thier own truth, but I feel the need to say a few things to represent where I'm coming from.

I went to Copenhagen to pursue the struggle for social change, not protest about climate change. I think (and have always thought) that concern over climate chaos is a nice little bourgeois campaign which seems to prize environmental concerns over and above other factors such as post-colonial exploitation, poverty, hunger, war and patriarchy. I don't want to live in a world in which we sort out the climate and still people are hungry, oppressed, dying of treatable diseases or living in a war zone.

The only good thing which could have come out of this broad spectrum of opposition to the climate talks was a larger, more coherent, determined protest movement. I don't think that really happened.

The black bloc were hampered by the preventitive arrest strategy. Indeed, overall the protests were very much outmanouevred by the state. That's ok i guess they have been playing catch up for a while. The more people who experience preventitive arrests, kettling, police brutality and the sheer boredom of being on a big demo, the more who will be up for flash riots, moving mobs and other new tactics.

One thing that was lacking on the demos in Copenhaged was the spark, the flashpoint. Pretty soon, we won't need that any more. People are getting angrier generally. The high priests of capitalism know not to push down on us too much all at once, or else we push back. They know to push slowly, in isolated places, first here then there. But as capitalism blunders about puncdrnk, as the recession/repression increases, it will no longer be so easy to do this.

And maybe then we can come back to the mass demo idea. With enough people, anything is possible. Despite the mass police presence in Copenhagen, with a 4,000 strong black bloc we could have got inside the Bella Centre, no problem. People would have got battered, but we would have got in. No problem. 4,000 people isn't actually that much.

Billaman Bagwash the Third

Are You serious?

27.12.2009 00:17

Depend from the point of view. Yes, from the physical point of view we field. It was expected. They have guns,equipment,laws etc.and we have just our self and bare hands.But we have also determination and knowledge that there is no other way that victory and one day capitalism/system have to fall in order to save the planet/future etc. So those days would come. We will bring them, because that what the history and next generation are expecting from us.
From the other point's.COP 15 protest's wasn't just battle for Bella Centre, but many other successful actions like 100.000 demo "System change Not Climate Change" or described by You "No Borders"Demo and other more or less successful actions.
Even "Reclaim Power" was success if You look beyond the police line. Official negotiations failed,all the world get to know that there is conflict, that "green capitalism" that just another green wash with fake solutions. Many politicians, scientists, ngo's,delegate's took our side by living the negotiations. Our people were inside and they expressed our demands to the world. The police violence towards activists and delegates is just showing to the world real face of "democracy". We, tausends of people met together, act together, talk to each other, made contact, connections, exchange experiences, tried the best...
For me the biggest victory what we achieved that this that we reclaimed our life. For me that was the one of the most active,productive,inspiring,mobilising 10 days in my life.
We learn a lot and next time would be better. The Climate Justice movement is young, but the situation is expecting from us that we will grow up very quickly not just with numbers but also with the quality and variety of tactics. Of course, we still have to learn a lot, of course we are making mistakes...but we should never give up. They can bit us, spray us, arrest us, but they can never conquer us because it's about our common future.

"Are we serious?
This was my first, and quite possibly last, international summit protest."
You answered Yourself clearly

"The point is that you can't cobble together satyagraha in a few days. Reading the history of the Gandhian movement in India, or, say, the civil rights movement in the US, what can impress even more than the achievements was the process -- dedication, preparation, psychological and organisational training -- involved."
Exactly. We had together with people who we didn't know, with different point of views,tactics, we had to manage something in few days.
You didn't even boder to come for a meeting to said Your proposal of strategy.
"Gandhi talked of the satyagrahis as a well-disciplined "army". Even when practised on a small scale, non-violent direct action that puts bodies at stake calls for serious discipline -- cf. the intense training of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) before the freedom rides and lunch counter actions. As for successful civil disobedience on a mass scale, it's as rare as unicorns -- indeed many of Gandhi's attempts collapsed or broke down into plain old fashioned riots"
So look at that as process(There is no way to freedom. Freedom is the way)
For me it was big step in the building of the movement on many surfaces. To compare "Friends Of The Earth"spend a lot of money to spread their message, we with small budget "Reclaim Power" achieved much more that can be expected. Never Give up!

mail e-mail: mgriks(at)
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passion and tactics

27.12.2009 02:34

interesting Krop about the self-righteousness making you squirm - I've felt the same very much so from the UK climate camp folk, but haven't know how to put it without getting people defensive. It's actually few people involved in the climate camp process, but they often have the microphone/press release/facilitator's hat and thus make the whole thing feel self-congratulatory and self-referential...which makes many people just want to walk. We can of course celebrate what we do, but not if that means always bigging ourselves up above everything, closing the space for creative new thought and critiques, always making it have to be bigger and better. Maybe that's partly where we lose the anger and passion and ability to fight. And if we always claim victory, we end up looking foolish. Of course success isn't binary, did we get in/block the whatever/stop the bad stuff, but if we shout to loudly, we end up being unheard.

A, about kettling - there's some tips in the Guide to Public Order Situations, latest version available to read at:
or to download at:

There's also much stuff there about moving in small groups and taking the initiative.

As to Billaman, errr, think about campaigning on climate change for a bit...yes, what it's trying to do is make sure that less species and humans die, and in the way it organises try to aim for a socially just world we can inhabit. I say 'pah' to your talk of the environment, something separate to humans! So before you cast judgement on climate campaigners, give them some credit for perhaps thinking a bit before taking action!

Also your talk of numbers being everything is an illusion - it's the tactics that people use and the way they organise that make the difference. There were many more than 4,000 protesting against the World Bank in Prague and using black bloc tactics - the mainly British mainly Earth First! bloc got a lot closer (well, some got in; we did use black bloc tactics mixed in with others, with varying degrees of success).


serious about change

27.12.2009 07:14

Massing wherever world leaders decide to hold a meeting is forever following two steps behind, reacting to their decisions - them setting the agenda. We know in advance that also following two steps behind is a massive police force that know just how predictable we are. What has changed as a result of the demonstration? Not a thing (not that I'm in any doubt of the committment and passion of that mass of protestors)
Now think about those thousands of protestors converging on some shitty polluter, unexpected, unprotected. They shut it down, smash it up and move on to another. As the state forces begin to react and arrive at the scene, people melt away, reappearing at another polluter. They don't even have to be major, obvious targets. What has changed as a result? A handful of polluters are no longer adding to climate chaos. Will it change government policies? Of course not, but then appealing to leaders at Copenhagen was never going to do that either. Change has to be brought about at grassroots level by direct action and we have to use guerilla tactics on a massive scale and be a lot cleverer than predictably following the world leaders around the globe.


Kill capitalism with bombs

27.12.2009 18:51

Fran, if 'giving up arguing' about what's a good thing to do and what's a stupid thing to do will build anarchism then count me out.

Bombs do not attack 'capitalism', they only attack symbols of capitalism. Capitalism is a social relationship between people. You can kill as many capitalists or destroy as many buildings owned by capitalists as you like but until we actually en masse refuse capitalist social relations by refusing work and taking the wealth and infrastructure into our own hands, you will be pissing into the wind.

Triple AAA

watered down plans

28.12.2009 17:40

i'd like to add also that the initial ideas had to do with deligitimising the whole cop-15 summit in a very similar way to what was done in 2007 at the G8 in Germany. (Tadzio wrote an article early on that can be found here and in initial meetings this approach was common). This could have been done by blockades and considering bella center is on an island, it could have been quite easy.

then ngo's and the 'global south' somehow showed up and then strange discussions started. should deligates be blocked in or out? then some people thought maybe good stuff could come out of the meeting, something that no politicians seemed to think, the danish prime minister was quite clear about the impossibility of a positive outcome, and then it all kind of went downhill. in the end some confusing watered down coalition of our leaders decided that it made sense to march through no mans land, to a fence with police everywhere in denmark in december to hold....a meeting.

i think that blockades could have been done with a diversity of tactics but this climate justice movement is trying to please too many people and looses all teeth and direction. this isn't for anarchists and anti-capitalists, we should leave this circus to the NGOs and the parties and leaders and their confusing logic.


start listening

29.12.2009 15:30

(sorry for my bad English spelling)
Maybe we should start listening to one and another, instead of telling everybody what they should and should not do. We are so good in telling everybody our truth , but we sometimes seems to forget that so many others live in the same world and have a right to there own truth. We can try to convince others about what we believe in, but we can never tell them what to do. If we can't respect the choises of others, even if we don't believe in their choises, than we slowly turn into a form of fascism instead of anarchism.
If the only thing we can think of in a demonstration is fighting police, than we have a serious problem. It blocks us for being more creatief and maybe even being more effectief. And we bring others in problems who don't want to fight, but have the same rights to be in the same protest! If we can't respect others choises, we start to divide ourselves in to small groups, instead of one big blok of diversety of protesters.

act and listen

once and for all

29.12.2009 16:29

i see it like this: we either fight, or we're fucked. we fight with bombs AND communities being built, or we sit back and do bugger all because this system will not 'go away' unless by force. the IRA AND PLO showed us what can be done a little towards real freedom. would their palestinian and northern ireland 'authorities' be up and running without bombs AND community building? would the kids in the streets throwing stones RITUALLY, everday, at troops in the west bank and west belfast have got them no where? when they were second class citizens in their own country, did fighting not help them in many ways?

all empires crumble, some just need a push..........

PS. and its still fucked up in both those 'countries' (ulster, palestine), doesn't that prove the might of the system to never change completely, even after horrific wars???

what is needed now is complete and utter global revolution the likes of which has never occurred...

The saddest thing about it is it means more wars and more suffering to get there.............but what else is there? no one else will help us. nothing will come from the sky and save us from ourselves. only true revolutionary spirit,shown to us over the decades and centuries past, will suffice now. all other talk is, in MY OPINION, pointless.

fran, a peasent

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