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Activists reveal tactics used by police to 'decapitate' Copenhagen climate protests

Danish police used wire traps, deployed undercover officers and detained people in cages to 'decapitate' protests in Copenhagen, activists claim

Police officers watch as protesters march towards the Bella Centre

Police officers watch as protesters march towards the Bella centre. Photograph: Pawel Kopczynski/Reuters

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."


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Activists reveal tactics used by police to 'decapitate' Copenhagen climate protests

This article was published on guardian.co.uk at 18.39 GMT on Thursday 17 December 2009.

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  • Graniteman Graniteman

    17 Dec 2009, 7:18PM

    Oh, my. Has the Danish government been infiltrated by George Bush? More seriously, I am glad to see that the Danish police are capable of doing what they are paid to do.

  • SakariO SakariO

    17 Dec 2009, 7:24PM

    After reading all the pros and cons about the Danish police activity i wonder if any other similar meeting should be organized in Copenhagen. I agree that masses of people might go out of hand and that in such conditions it is hard to keep at bay the people, but, hey it seems that their actions are unlawful and not fully justified ( see also http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cif-green/2009/dec/15/copenhagen-protests-resisting-compliant-urge). Thing which seems to be acknowledged as well by Per Larsen the Danish Chief Police Inspector.

    This, of course, on the background of the failed talks and negotiations which appears to be originated from the organizers themselves. Which doesn't entirely surprise me since a similar attitude from them was also commented during the International Human Rights Conference organized during the World Out Games 2009, which took place also in Copenhagen (a number of comments were sparked in particular following the Jonas Christoffersen's, Danish Human Right's Institute director, speech for the launching of the Copenhagen Catalogue of Good Practices).

  • seasonticket seasonticket

    17 Dec 2009, 7:42PM

    The majority of Danes (60%) support these new laws.
    Free speech is now only for racist caricatures of spiritual leaders, if you are "noisy" in any other way you will be calmed down with pepper spray and batons.

  • iambe iambe

    18 Dec 2009, 12:24AM

    And why 'Voice of Reason08' should we assume that you are not paid by ExxonMobil to spread reactionary comments and trashy skepticism in left winged papers? You will find that activists have a longer history of telling the truth than your corporate buddies responsible for the climate crisis.

  • thesnufkin thesnufkin

    18 Dec 2009, 8:52AM

    The arrests seem to be a fairly scattergun approach, but protestors sometimes don't help themselves.

    What is the police hadn't stopped them breaking into the conference center? how would that have helped? How would anyone have got anything done?

    Some of the se mass actions seem to be planned with the assumption that there will be a clash with the police, otherwise they'd be pointless.

    I'm aware I'm speaking as an elitist greenpeace activist: we do our actions at the crack of dawn in complete secrecy so we don't meet the police.

  • MasonPaul MasonPaul

    18 Dec 2009, 7:29PM

    It is very obvious that global warming if unabated will destroy Denmark. So who is protesting this? Hugo Chavez, Communists/Socialists and people that just love to protest because it is so retro. Reminds me of the Kent State massacre.

    People you should be snow skiing instead. Luckily one Global Warming denier failed to show in Copenhagen, Sarah "The Idiot" Palin. She didn't want her children to know the truth. Maybe we could put Sarah on an iceberg in the South Atlantic so she and hang out with her hubby. They always forget birth control. Don't forget that or the Viagra.

  • PottyProf PottyProf

    18 Dec 2009, 7:44PM

    Is this what it's really about ?

    Even our favourite climate skeptic, Lord Cristopher Monckton, is mixing it on the streets with the new UN security apparatus

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/12/17/lord-monckton-barred-from-copenhagen-conference-pushed-to-the-ground-by-security/

  • Balder Balder

    20 Dec 2009, 8:03AM

    The Guardian couldn't even get the names right

    'Kamille Kosod' = Kamille Hjuler Kofod

    'Britain Nyboe' = Tanja ('Tannie') Nyboe (sometimes identified as 'Nybroe' in Danish press)

    Tanja Nyboe is not just a front figure of 'Climate Action', but also was a spokesperson of a group which protested against the deportation of rejected Iraqi Asylum seekers. The group caused riots trying to block the police from driving the Iraqis (among them convicted drug dealers, violent offenders and rapists) to the airport very recently.

    What was not shown in the many media clips we saw from the left leaning Danish media, who were constantly defending the 'activists' who's connections with the extreme left fringe was never mentioned, is photos like these which clearly show this is a bunch of Marxist extremists, waving hammer and sickle flags showing what it's all about; 'System change, not Climate Change'.

    The same old communists, again hijacking an agenda in order to promote their revolutionary ideas.

    In other words; these 'activists' are just the same old Marxist revolutionaries, singing new words to the same old marxist tune.

    See some images the media try to go around as much as possible: Uriasposten

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