- guardian.co.uk, Thursday 17 December 2009 18.39 GMT
Danish police used wire traps, deployed undercover officers and detained people in cages they called "Guantanamo junior" to "decapitate" climate protests in Copenhagen this week, activists claimed today.
The details of police tactics came as three of the spokespeople for the campaigning group behind yesterday's protests around the Bella conference centre, where UN climate talks are taking place, were charged and imprisoned following preliminary hearings.
News also emerged that six activists had successfully breached the Bella centre's security during a police operation hailed by a Danish minister as a "really good job."
Tadzio Mueller, Stine Gry Jonassen and Britain Nyboe, all spokespeople for Climate Justice Action, the umbrella organisation behind yesterday's Reclaim Power action, were picked up by police at different locations, before and during the demonstration. Tadzio Mueller has been charged with incitement to riot while Jonassen and Britain Nyboe were both charged with violence against police officers and disorderly conduct. Other activists associated with the organisation were arrested at the demonstration and around the city, with a total of 264 detentions throughout the course of the day.
During preliminary court hearings against Jonassen and Nyboe, it was revealed that Danish police had been tapping the phones of activists. Separately, campaigners said undercover police have also been widely used, mixing with the crowds, and probably infiltrating meetings. "You can often spot them because they always seem to wear those Palestinian scarves," said one activist.
Erik Storrud, a Danish reporter for Indymedia, reported being grabbed by plainclothes officers while in the Christiania district on Monday night: "One of them asked to search my bag and then pushed me to the ground and told me 'I'm going to waste you'."
Scott Byrd, a sociologist from California, described seeing his fellow campaigner Nicolas Haeringer - one of the organisers of Wednesday's march - arrested at the demonstration. "Two plainclothes officers, not announcing themselves as such, pulled Nicolas aside and started questioning him. One of them pulled out a baton and then Nicolas started running with the two black-clad undercovers in pursuit. They tackled him to the ground, beat him a couple of times and threw him in a van that had pulled up and drove off very fast."
Richard Bernard was one of the detainees in a detainment centre that he said police officers jokingly referred to as "Guantanamo junior". When some detainees began trying to destroy the cages in which they were kept and move them around, he said "police sprayed pepper gas at us, while we still had our hands cuffed behind our backs."Other activists gave accounts of police using pepper spray on demonstrators in the detention cages, whose hands were cuffed behind their backs.
"Police have been trying to decapitate the organisation by arresting spokepeople, because they thought that if they took certain people they would stop the demonstration taking place," said Kamille Kosod, a spokesperson for Climate Justice Action. "But they completely misunderstand how we work; we are horizontally organised, and if you take one person then other people take over. These people were not leaders, they were spokespeople."
She confirmed that six activists had been able to get into the grounds of the Bella centre, after the main body of the demonstration had moved off. It is believed that they went across the small moat to the north of the centre, and got as far as the car park, where they shouted "Our world is not for sale" before being arrested.
Police described the conference operation as successful.Spokesman Henrik Suhr said: "At the Bella centre the summit has been able to continue without disturbance from people coming inside. And that is what we are here for."
Questioned on the use of pepper spray, Suhr said: "That is quite common in Denmark. We did use it in the detention centres because the people there were trying to destroy the cages and being noisy, and we wanted to calm them down. And we succeeded."
Brian Mikkelsen, the Danish justice minister , was quoted in the Politiken newspaper today as saying: "The aim of the law was to prevent violent demonstrators from setting the town on fire, attacking the police and ordinary citizens and from making extensive vandalism. And the law has worked. The police have ... thanks to their new powers, done a really good job and prevented extensive unrest. I can tell the people appreciate this."