Thousands rally for 'Reclaim Power' march
I had never seen police beat people and seen the frightening orange glow of tear gas before in my life.
Today I marched in the 'Reclaim Power' march, an event that meant to symbolize the opening of the UN negotiations, which had previously been closed to most civil society groups at these critical negotiations.
I'm not naive. I've marched in protests in the past, and thoroughly enjoyed the bringing together of people from so many different walks of life in the favour of one cause, though always aware that these situations could turn unfortunate for a variety of reasons.
I was not prepared for today. Within minutes of arriving at the Bella Centre with the "yellow" block of the march (the block that was meant to be the peaceful, non-confrontational section making up of NGOs and intergovernmental groups), violence broke out.
Those at the head of march with megaphones advocated others to push into the police line to attempt to get into the Bella Centre, which was something that was not planned from what I heard about our involvement prior to. From there, I saw scenes that I had only imagined of protests or seen in the movies, such as several dozen riot police spilling out of cars, vicious police dogs, orange powder in the air that left people coughing and spluttering, and several innocent people being hit and beaten up by the Danish police.
I saw young girls crying, and found myself at the back of the crowd comforted by Maude Barlow, the national chairperson of the Council of Canadians, who was also in the crowd, as were several other peaceful Canadians. Fortunately most of us were able to get behind the police lines when they started closing in on the marchers.
The message of the day was to provide a space to hold a people's assembly, and to highlight the fact that many of the solutions being proposed to the climate problem inside the Bella Centre are not adequate, and don't come anywhere near addressing the call for climate justice.
I'm afraid that message may have been lost as the story of the march is told through news outlets for the rest of the day. What is left now are several people in jail cells across Copenhagen, more who have been traumatized by the police violence, and many more who will probably watch the footage and mock the marchers for being "radical" or any other label that is meant to be derogatory and not focus on the fact that the majority of marchers were peaceful and why the march took place.
I'm still momentarily shocked at the sequence of events this morning, but I still stand strong on the fact that the world needs a strong, ambitious climate agreement, and Canada's lack of action is holding back that possibility. Let's hope we can move beyond the unnecessary violence of today's events, and focus on what is important and what needs to be done in the next two days.