COP15: San Antonians join protest calling for urgent action at Copenhagen

World leaders portrayed as puppets of oil and gas interests at weekend's demonstrations in Copenhagen. Photo Credit: Diana Pei Wu

Jill Johnson

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COPENHAGEN, Denmark â?? A sea of 100,000 folks from around the world demanding climate justice flooded the downtown streets of Copenhagen and marched four miles to the negotiations center. Led by the indigenous peoples delegation, the call was made for urgent action in emission reduction that is equitable and effective as the talks entered the sixth day.

SWU joined the â??Systems Change Not Climate Change' (PDF) march bloc demanding an end to climate colonialism, calling for the protection of the most impacted communities, and leading the charge for a new paradigm of climate solutions based on social justice and human rights.

Along with social justice organizations from the U.S., the contingencies included grassroots organizations from the South, like La Via Campesina. As the convention center prepares to shut out the majority of civil society participants next week when high-level ministers arrive, this march elevated the call for world leaders to listen the global movement, to folks excluded from the table negotiating our future.

Dressed in several layers and covered with hats, gloves and scarves under the chilly blue skies, energy was high as we took the streets starting at the Danish national palace and moved over numerous canals and through the city center. One human-powered float showed the Presidents of industrialized countries as mere puppets of corporate interests (top), advocating for more oil and coal â?? the antithesis of what is needed to protect community health as well as the planet. Samba bands brought music to the street within a sea of color, banners, and flags from all part of the world.

Interestingly, the most fortified space during the march was a McDonald's restaurant, blockaded by riot police standing shoulder to shoulder.

Tom Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network addressed the march at its finale, two hours after the sun went down. He made strong calls for the necessity of explicit language to protect indigenous people's rights included in any climate treaty as well as the inability of any market based mechanism to solve the climate crisis in a real and equitable manner.

Yesterday's march took place as part of a larger global day of action with solidarity events occurring around the world.


Jill Johnson (pictured marching above) is the organizing director for the San Antonio-based Southwest Workers' Union, a non-profit organization dedicated to worker rights, environmental justice and community empowerment.