Little Drama Closes COP16

Posted on 11 December 2010 by admin

Young demonstrators into the bus. Credit: Mantoe Phakathi/IPS

By Mantoe Phakathi *

CANCÚN, Dec 11, 2010 (IPS/TerraViva) – Drama unfolded outside the Azteca Expocentre of the Moon Palace when police rounded up a group of about 20 youths who were protesting on the slow pace of the climate change negotiations.

The youths, who was chanting numbers from one with the aim of reaching 21,000, which they said represented global climate-related deaths in the last nine months, was cut short by the United Nations police.

“The manner in which the police loaded the youth into the bus was just uncalled for,” said Kumi Naidoo, Executive Director of Greenpeace.

The police just grabbed the young protesters and shoved them into a bus that was used to ferry delegates around the different venues at COP16 in the Mexican city of Cancun.

“This is our future we’re fighting for,” said the protesting youth while trying hard to resist getting into the bus.

This was after 05:00 pm, Mexican time (23:00 GMT) when negotiators were busy finalising the outcome of COP16, not concluded yet.

The drama which attracted a lot of spectators including delegates and the press also saw the arrest of a Reuters journalist who clashed with the police over his confiscated badge.

He was one of the many reporters who were pushing and shoving to get the best shot while police loaded the youth into the bus.

For some unknown reason, a UN police officer ripped his badge and refused to give it back.

“He wants the police to give back his badge because he is only doing his job by taking pictures,” a journalist interpreted to IPS what his Spanish-speaking colleague was saying.

But the police forced him into the next bus which in the company of a police officer, drove away with the journalist who was still protesting inside.

Mexican police agents restrained the crowd of journalists which was preventing the bus security from leaving with their colleague.

“This represents the kind of restrictions that civil society has been subjected to at this COP,” said Naidoo.

He said COP16 did not give a chance to civil society organisations to participate, and the police were making a big deal out of young people peacefully demonstrating at the conference after getting permission.

“The UN police are forgetting that climate change has become an international agenda through efforts of civil society yet now they are throwing us out,” said Naidoo.

The youth organisations requested permission from the Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to demonstrate at the conference venue and were allowed only 30 minutes.

“We want to reach the number 21,000 and that’s going to take us longer than 30 minutes,” said 23-year-old Jenny Bedell-Stiles from the United States, before the skirmish. It was going to take them five hours to finish chanting the slogans – little did she know that the police would pounce on them in no time.

In a last attempt to influence the decisions of COP16, the youth carried a banner with the message: “Climate Justice Delayed is Climate Justice Denied.”

“The climate negotiations have taken way too long and as young people we’ve been watching, and now it’s time for us to demand action,” said Bedell-Stiles.

“We’re calling for a legally-binding document in Cancún,” she said.

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