Protesters square off against police at COP17

by LLOYD GEDYE – Dec 02 2011 18:29

The 17th Congress of the Parties (COP17) has been a bit of a damp squib this week on the protest front but things hotted up on Friday when a joint protest between the Rural Women’s Assembly and the Democratic Left Front faced a stand off against the police.

The protest was scheduled to take place at Speaker’s Corner, a green park across the road from the Durban International Convention Centre.

However, about 1 000 activists had soon taken to the streets facing the police, who were brandishing riot shields and batons, outside the entrance to the ICC.

The protestors chanted “our streets, our land” as they marched, and “the whole world is watching”.

Organisers of the protest frantically worked to make sure that the stand off would not result in any confrontation and soon had the protestors marching away from the riot police, around the block and back into Speaker’s Corner.

A press release, which was put out by the protest organisers said, “We, the poor and working class of South Africa and the world, demand Climate Justice.”

“We demand that our governments stop selling out to the rich and demand significant, legally binding emissions agreements.”

“The retreat from the moderate targets set out in the Kyoto protocols and a legally binding second commitment period for Annex 1 countries is a disgrace.”

“The historical responsibility for the climate crisis sits with them, yet now they want to stand aside while the people of the global South perish,” it read.

Friday’s protest is seen as a precursor to the main march, which is scheduled for Saturday.

The march, which has been dubbed the “Global day of Action”, will start at Botha’s Garden at 9am and will reach the ICC at 1pm.

Speakers will present short speeches; before statements gathered from participating groups and organisations are collectively handed over to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change executive secretary Christiana Figueres.

Speakers will include Zwelinzima Vavi, Nnimmo Bassey, Bishop Davies, Aluwani Nemukula and Constance Mogale.

The march will end at the Old Pavilion site.

COP17 Global Day of Action committee convenor Desmond D’sa said, “World leaders are discussing the fate of our planet but they are far from reaching a solution to climate change.”

“If they fail to make progress, we will see drought and hunger blight our country and continent even further,” said D’sa. “We call on all South Africans to march with us this Saturday and remind our leaders they must come to a fair climate change deal that avoids runaway climate change.”

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