Copenhagen Summit: A Student's Perspective

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

  • Protesters clash with police outside the Bella Convention Centre, where world leaders were attempting to break an impasse over n

    Protesters clash with police outside the Bella Convention Centre, where world leaders were attempting to break an impasse over n

Written by Yvonne Su

This morning I woke up knowing that I was going to participate in a march that was going to define the rest of my life. I knew that I was going to see things I have never seen before and I was going to be deeply disturbed by the things that I am going to watch unfold in front of me.

Knowing all of that did not prepare me for what I witnessed today. I watched as thousands of people from all over the world gathered to march peacefully towards the Bella Center, the location of the current UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. The plan was for us to march in solidarity towards the Bella Center. When we reached the Bella Center, we were to breach the fences to meet with delegates walking out of the conference so a "People's Assembly" could be hosted outside.

When we arrived, police trucks and riot police lined the fence. I climbed on top of a billboard to capture the action. On the count of ten, thousands of protestors charged at the police line in an attempt to get over the fence.

With each number my heart rate raced faster and tears poured from my eyes out as I felt the power that was radiating from the group's direct action. These people were fighting for us. The cause of climate justice meant so much for them that they were willing to risk their physical well being to raise the profile of the cause and host a People's Assembly about the issues that are fundamental to society.

My body shook as I watched the advance of protestors clash into the walks of police and trucks. It was clear this was not going to be even close to a fair fight. Everything that I believed - in justice, non-violence, anti-oppression, humanity - was breaking down in front of me. The dominance of state power was evident and protestors were excessively abused, beat down with batons, pushed off of trucks, tear gassed and pepper sprayed. All of this was captured in the video my friend Adam MacIsaac and I captured and edited.

I felt so much power in the people and so much oppression executed by the police. I was not in the group but I felt their struggle so deep within me. The climate change movement has come up again and again against resistance from established systems of our society and to watch as civil society physically clash with police to fight for a cause that runs so deep within me- was life changing.

To witness the incredible strength and the sense of unity among the group of people from all over world- all fighting on the same front, all fighting for a world with climate justice was empowering. To truly feel and understand the injustices in the world is something that is going to stay with me for the rest of my life. I have never felt so wronged in my life than at that moment- watching as people get excessively beat down, pushed around, tear gasses, pepper sprayed and down right oppressed. Is this what democracy looks like? A system that not only suppresses the voices of the public and restricts their involvement but one that abuses and silences the actions and voices of those who are brave enough to stand up for a just world.

I feel this experience has helped make me stronger as an individual and an activist. I feel it was a coming of age event for myself. To graduate out of the pretty and playing it safe activism to being on the frontline and really seeing the world for what it is.

For the rest of the conference, I really don't know what is going to happen. It's such a circus in there and there is so much that is going on behind closed doors. The Denmark government and the other Annex 1 countries will go to no end to make sure Copenhagen is labeled as a "success". Everything will be compromised and the developing world can do nothing but accept what is handed down to them. The cycle of dependency and climate injustice will continue and the developed world will greenwash what has happened here and the public will eat it up.

Copenhagen is a defining moment of our history. What is done and more importantly what is not accomplished in Copenhagen over the next 72 hours will depict how humans will live in the next 50 years. This is as serious as it is going to get and we need to be educated and informed. We need to have the knowledge that will enable us to participate in the political processes that are unfolding in front of our eyes.

If we let such injustice continue to happen in our world- the people at loss is humanity as a whole. It will be the fossil fuel industry that will have won, corporations and CEOs that will benefit from a failure in Copenhagen- not the people. Not us in the North, and even less so for the people in the south. Climate change knows no borders. This is the time to act, this is the time to participate in democracy and make our politicians accountable for their actions and accountable to their citizens.

Do not stand by as vested interest from fossil fuel industries depict our future. We will not stand for that and today was evidence of one of many battles in a war. We will fight and we will fight in the battles internationally and at home. Fight for a planet that you want to live, fight for climate justice- we will win the war.

Yvonne Su is a University of Guelph Student who is attending the U.N. Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen, Denmark.

The opinions posted on thecannon.ca reflect those of their author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Central Student Association and the Guelph Campus Co-op. We encourage all students to submit opinion pieces, including ones that run contrary to the opinion piece in question

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  1. Posted by: christine de pizan on Dec 18, 2009 @ 3:11pm

    thank you for sharing this. i'm glad some university of guelph students actually made it to copenhagen. direct action is the only way. be well comrades
    in sol.

  2. Posted by: pipedreams on Dec 31, 2009 @ 9:51am

    I'm sorry, but this article is the biggest load of crap I have ever read in my entire life. This video is also incredibly convenient, switched on only to show the police beating the protesters, but of course the video is editing so as to not show what could have possibly provoked the police to take such action. like say, perhaps, an army of people trying to crash through them and storm the summit? and you try to complain about democracy? is THIS democracy to you? a big mob storming parliament and laying down their demands? If mob rule is what you want, im sure there are many places in the world where it occurs, where MIGHT is right. Personally im glad we dont submit to such brutal tactics. If the protesters had not stormed the police line..none of them would have been beaten. its really quite simple and standard procedure. Law and order is not the same as oppression.

    This doesn't even touch the fact that global warming is vastly exagerrated and sensationalized, beyond any form of debate. It is often said "the debate is over" but when did it ever take place? There are to this day THOUSANDS of dissenting voices among the scientific community about the nature of climate change, its scope, historical parallels, and its causes, but none of this is EVER discussed. instead we have mobs of zombies who watch one film by al gore and think they are fighting against "injustice" in the world. it is a nice emotion im sure, but beyond any rational thought.

    Furthermore, do you honestly believe that all of this is paid off by "the fossil fuel industry"... and that this evil menace to society is somehow not connected to the governments action? You really think its that black and white? what as the result of copenhagen? the siphoning of more billions of dollars from the developed world into the hands of dictators and corrupt regimes in order to keep the contracts and oil flowing. I agree it is ultimately the people losing, but what we are losing as a result of these bogus climate summits which are based on nothing but hearsay is simple: sovereignty, liberty, and wealth.

    remember, big government and big corporations go hand in hand, they are both in the interest of one another in the direction of fascism. these "evil" corporations could not exist without the hand of government. your so called representatives. so careful what you wish for.

  3. Posted by: on Jan 3, 2010 @ 9:37pm

    This article is a ridiculous oversimplification. Crowds of activists attempted to charge a meeting of elected world leaders. Of course the police will stop them; democracy doesn't mean that hordes of people can charge into government offices and demand things their way. If you don't agree with that imagine a mob of neo-nazis charging some mayor's office. Democracy does not allow the loudest, angriest, and most theatrical people to decide things. It's one thing to stand and protest, making your opinion known, but violent 'direct action' is not only useless, but also marginalizes the point of view it is associated with.

    If these people want change than participating in a giant street party like this is not the way to go, protest at the ballot box, protest by getting involved in politics and following the issues, protest by holding your leaders accountable.

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