COP17 civil society statement on conflict during the Global Day of Action

Durban 4 December 2011 – On Saturday 3 December, the mid-point of COP 17, about 12 000 people from across the continent and the world gathered in Durban to demand climate justice and unite against climate change.

The march was largely peaceful, with divergent activist groups uniting to demand action from governments around the world. The march culminated in the handing over of memoranda of understanding to UNFCCC COP17 President Nozipho Mxakato-Diseko and UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christian Figueres.

There was, however, disruption during the course of the march in which a group of about 300 protesters, dressed in official COP17 volunteer uniforms tore up placards, physically threatened and attacked activists participating in the march. In spite of heavy police
presence throughout the march, including mounted police, riot police, air-patrol and snipers, and requests to address this disruption,
police did not take any action. This was a major failure of the police to act to prevent this group from destabilising the march and injuring other activists.

The disruptive group persistently attempted to take up positions at the head of the march, but agreed to retreat to the back following
negotiations between march organisers and the professed leader of this group. However they found their way back to the middle of the march where they continued to cause disruption.

The disruptive group wore uniforms distinguishing them as city volunteers for COP 17, in green eThekwini tracksuits with city
branding and emblems, but acknowledged themselves to be ANC Youth League supporters, displaying pro-Zuma and anti-Malema placards.

As volunteers paid daily by the municipality of eThekwini, it is of grave concern that their intimidation of peaceful marchers was left
unchallenged by those in authority. As such, the city manager and mayor, together with the UNFCCC must answer to the involvement of this group and the failure of authorities to address this unnecessary violence.

The need for action on climate change is urgent, and civil society stands united against climate change. But we also stand against
violence and intimidation of any kind, which impacts on our right to assembly. Organisations were invited to attend the march on the
understanding that it would be a peaceful protest. Every individual is welcome to civil society marches, but we are deeply concerned about whether this group will return to other peaceful assemblies, and the city needs to take urgent action to make sure that such
destabilisation does not re-occur.

The threatening behaviour during the march yesterday constitutes an attack on democracy and cannot be tolerated.

Civil society groups are calling a press conference today regarding the infringement of democratic rights of activists to protest.

Time: 5:30pm
Venue: UKZN, Howard College Campus, The People’s Space, Memorial Tower
Building, L1

Contact Information

C17 Global Day of Action Enquiries:
Desmond D’Sa
GDA subcommittee convenor
031 461 1991
083 982 6939
[email protected]

C17 Media Enquiries:
Laura Tyrer
Media and Communications subcommittee convenor
[email protected]

General Enquiries:
Siziwe Khanyile
Coordination subcommittee convenor
[email protected]

Photos of the rally are available here and here.

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