Traffic Chaos against Climate Chaos

Bonn, 23 July 2001

lola writes: A Reclaim the Streets action today was dramatically turned into a road blockade by activists from the Rising Tide Network and other groups. Demanding that their twelve-point manifesto be read out in the COP 6.5 conference halls, over 100 activists from the 500 strong parade locked arms around a central ring of people chained together for what turned into a four-hour blockade of a main street in Bonn.

Whilst some police used excessive force against blockaders and IMC, in general the situation was very calm and focussed. The people blockading the street were strong and determined at all times, with a jubilant crowd of dancing activists and samba band supporting them on the other side of the police line. Members of the world's press, cameras wrapped against the rain reporting from close quarters throughout the tense afternoon, resulting in regional, national and international media coverage.

The activists called on environmental NGOs to return to a position of environmental integrity, walk out of the climate talks, and join the people on the streets. Whilst most NGOs did not respond, Friends of the Earth offered some support and worked to persuade the UN to contact the police to ask that the protestors not be arrested. Reports are that NGOs mistakenly took the protestors demands to be an outright rejection of the Kyoto Protocol and feared connexion with such a critical voice. However, this was a misreading of the protestors demands, since the variety of critical groups and individuals taking part in the blockade included a diversity of views on the future of the Kyoto Protocol and to what extent the protocol is a first step in the right or the wrong direction. The demands were decided by consensus during meetings in the first days of COP6.5 and the 12 principles are the exact points on which the protestors agreed (see below).

Activists persuaded the UN to enter into dialogue and there were intense discussions for several hours to realise the right of the demonstrators to have their voices heard in the climate talks. Only days earlier Pronk, the President of the climate talks, had said to the Dutch bike tour that he wanted to "listen to people" and have information and updates from "the outside" whilst he was "locked in the conference for 2 weeks". However, Pronk and the UN failed to deliver on their public commitment to freedom of speech and democratic decision-making. Over a period of nearly an hour the police forcibly removed and detained 123 people to stop the blockade and allow the city traffic to resume 'business as usual'. This was the largest direct action at the climate talks since COP1 in Berlin 1995.

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