COPENHAGEN, Denmark – Tens of thousands of protesters marched through the streets here Saturday, demanding bolder action on climate issues from the international negotiators who remain divided over how to reconcile differences between industrialized nations and major developing countries.
The protest was the largest of its kind since the U.N.-sponsored talks began in the Danish capital on Monday: Organizers said as many 100,000 people joined in the event, although police put the number at about 40,000.
Toward the end of the rally, police arrested 600 to 700 people after some activists began throwing cobblestones through windows and a handful of masked protesters set off small explosives near a group of government buildings.
On a day when little progress was made in the climate talks, activists spread out on foot across the city holding banners in English reading, “There Is No Planet B,” and rocking back and forth inside a long ring of fabric that constituted a human boat, complete with a sail.
Billed as a crusade for “climate justice,” the march was led off by members of indigenous groups to highlight how activists say global warming is affecting some of the world’s most vulnerable citizens. Companion vigils were held in as many as 3,000 other locations worldwide, including Papua New Guinea, Israel, Japan and Saudi Arabia.
“What was going on in Copenhagen is deeply connected to people outside this absurd bubble of the conference, who have their hope pinned on the outcome of what happens here,” said Bill McKibben, who founded the environmental group 350.org and took part in the protest. “The people outside the talks, out in the streets, know more about the issue than most of the people inside the conference hall.”
According to one bystander, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is involved in the climate talks, masked, black-clad activists set off several explosives along Copenhagen’s main canal, which is near several ministry buildings.
The police kept the protesters from getting too close to the Bella Center, where the talks were going on. Several key factions, including the European Union and Japan, joined the United States in objecting to language in a draft U.N. proposal that requires developing countries to cut emissions only if those actions are funded from overseas. Citing the emerging economies’ rising carbon output, the industrialized nations want them to commit to binding reductions.