By Alexander Kelly
COPENHAGEN – As protesters tried but failed to penetrate the conference center where negotiators are hashing out an international climate treaty, the United Nations today barred about 1,000 environmentalists who had previously been granted credentials.
Meanwhile, InvestigateWest photographer Christopher Crow was arrested for the second time this week, this time as he tried to photograph the protesters attempting to break into the Bella Center amid barking police dogs and clouds of tear gas. About 230 demonstrators were arrested, police said.
The UN cited security concerns to justify ejecting whole delegations sent to the talks by environmental groups. But officials at the same time said they expected to expel increasingly large numbers of environmental delegates as the talks in the overcrowded center wend their way toward a Friday conclusion, and 119 heads of state arrive with their entourages.
The conference center’s maximum capacity is 20,000, according to the facility’s website. The UN, however, accredited up to 45,000 for the conference.
Journalists have had trouble getting into the meeting hall. UN officials sent me an e-mail saying I would be accredited, but refused to provide credentials once I arrived. A number of other journalists also had trouble obtaining UN permission to enter the hall. And those journalists who held credentials reported waits of upward of seven hours to enter on Tuesday — without access to bathroom facilities or water.
UN officials had previously planned to reduce the number of environmental representatives allowed into the conference from 7,000 to 4,000 today, said Steve Rio, an administrator for TckTckTck’s Fresh Air Center, which is working to increase access to the talks for journalists and environmentalists.
By Friday the number of environmental representatives in a conference hall filled with tens of thousands of negotiators is expected to drop to just 90, Rio said.
This week’s exclusions were reason enough for a few hundred people, mostly environmentalists, to leave the talks and join a protest outside the Bella Center. The demonstration, dubbed “Reclaim Power” by its organizers at the Climate Justice Action group, saw roughly 1,000 people attempting to enter the center to take over the talks shortly after noon.
Copenhagen police — as they had previously — quickly put an end to the demonstration, using pepper spray and dogs to deter would-be interrupters. The protest quieted down after about two hours, when activists were allowed to march away after failing to get inside the summit.
Thoughout the nine days of the talks, police have made frequent use of a law — passed just before the climate conference began — to make pre-emptive arrests of demonstrators.
The law also gives police the authority to hold detained individuals for 12 hours before seeing a judge. Amnesty International Denmark opposed the law, said Ida Thuesen, a spokeswoman for the group.
Protesters have complained that they were arrested even though they were demonstrating peaceably. The throngs outside the climate talks are angry that the negotiators inside are working on a “cap and trade” approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions that scientists say are unnaturally warming the atmosphere.
Opponents of the proposed policy were attempting to storm the conference center when Crow, 27, was arrested. He was also taken into custody on Sunday while photographing a protest in which demonstrators were intent on shutting down Copenhagen harbor.
In that incident, officers on the scene saw Crow’s news media identification card, but decided to arrest him anyway. After being taken to a makeshift holding area for arrested demostrators and spending about 3 1/2 hours in custody, Crow was released later Sunday.
Crow remains in custody of the Copenhagen police. It remains unclear whether he has been charged.