Two police and military helicopters hover in the clear blue sky over Christiansborg Slotsplads (Parliament Square), where over 100,000 people have gathered to mark the Global Day of Climate Action, which is taking place in more than 130 countries around the world, demanding that world leaders sign a fair, ambitious, and legally binding climate agreement.
Even at noon, the temperature drops to 2 degrees Celsius as I walk toward the square, where I will stay until 2 p.m. before the march to the Bella Center begins. In the midst of the crowd, I join 200 Greenpeace volunteers wearing light green jackets with the words “Act Now, Change the Future,” some holding placards with various messages, a giant floating snowman and a floating globe in a lifebuoy led by the fascinating Samba Drum – the day’s coolest volunteer team.
“Let’s stick with them so we don’t get lost,” I told Topsi, a former Greenpeace action coordinator from Thailand who is now studying for her master’s degree in Germany and has come over here to represent the University of Freiburg at COP15. When we arrive at the Drum group, I begin jumping up and down with the others.
In my more than 20 years of activism, I have led and participated in several demonstrations and protests; aside from the most memorable and hard-core clean-up action in Bhopal, India, this was the largest climate demonstration I have ever attended. Over 500 organisations from all over the world are taking part. It includes environmental, development, faith, labour, youth, and political organisations. Greenpeace, Oxfam, 350.org, Avaaz, IndyAct, ActionAid, DanChurch Aid, WWF Denmark, Climate Justice Action, Socialist People’s Party Youth, The Danish Social Democratic Youth, Enhedslisten (Red/Green Alliance), and People’s Climate Action were among the demonstration organisers in Copenhagen.
Speakers are giving inspiring speeches to warm up demonstrators on the stage before the rally officially begins. Helena Christensen, a Danish-Peruvian model and photographer, Kumi Naidoo, Greenpeace International Executive Director, Rahul Bose, a Bollywood actor and Global Ambassador for Oxfam, and Vandana Shiva, an eco feminist, delivered the most memorable speeches. Around 2 p.m. The rally began by moving across the bridge from Parliament Square.
At Nyhavn port, not far from the bridge, I see the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise, which has been anchored in Copenhagen since the start of the Climate Summit as part of the larger Greenpeace family to help push the delegates to reach a legally binding agreement, which is desperately needed. On board, a large banner read, “Politicians Talk, Leaders Act.”
From the bridge, I continue walking, dancing, and holding a “Climate Justice NOW” placard with the Samba Drums gang to the Chistainia area. The march is gaining momentum. Then gradually move to Tingvij/Frankrigsgade. The sky is already dark when the first leg of the rally arrives in Sundby, where I notice a 1 Megawatt wind turbine operating behind the Bella Center.
Outside the Bella Center, the stage cut across the road. “It is wonderful to see a human sea of light bringing a message of hope and solidarity, most of the people in the room stopped talking and came out to see it on the screen,” writes Wanun Permpiboon, a Thai activist who has been assisting the Thai Negotiating Team inside the Bella Center.
Thai activists, along with other groups, are taking part in the rally. They claimed the other day that the front-row rally was moving so quickly that it created enough space for police to “seal-off” some protesters from the march. Several hundred activists are arrested by police that day.
While the on-stage speakers make their way to the Bella Center to hand over the ship sails to UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo De Boer, all Greenpeace volunteers board a bus bound for the warehouse for a debrief.
Following the debrief, I take the Greenpeace inflatable from the warehouse to where the Arctic Sunrise is anchored, and then the bus to Danhostel Bellahoj. Topsi, who was staying at the warehouse with the other 200 volunteers, sent a short message saying, “Samba Drums begin playing now for volunteer party.” As a result, I miss the best part.