New anti-protest laws for Copenhagen

November 3, 2009 at 10:17 pm Leave a comment

Rich countries block effective climate action at Copenhagen, condemning billions of the world’s poorest to the awful impacts of runaway climate change — legal. Protesting against this outrage — illegal.

The Danish government is preparing new “anti-riot” laws in time for the UN-sponsored climate talks in Copenhagen.

Proposed changes to police powers to arrest and detain climate protesters were announced on October 18. Indymedia Denmark said the laws would likely pass through parliament before the conference begins on December 7.

Under Danish law, police already have the right to carry out “preventative arrests” if they suspect a crime may be committed in the future. The current “preventative” detention limit is six hours. The proposed new law would double the limit to 12 hours.

Those convicted of “hindering the authorities” also face much tougher penalties. Indymedia Denmark said a first time offense normally results in small fine. The new laws would punish those convicted with up to 40 days imprisonment.

Penalites for “vandalism in a situation where the public peace and order is disturbed” are set to double — with a maximum sentence of three years. Fines for “breaching the peace” would more than quadruple under the changes.

In an August 10 statement, Danish police said “open-air meetings may be prohibited when it is feared that they may constitute a danger to the public order”.

Face coverings or masks are strictly illegal. The police also warned they can legally break up any protest “after the crowd has three times been called upon to disperse in the name of the Queen and the law and such warnings have gone unheeded”.

Tens of thousands of people will attend a series of demonstrations during the conference to demand urgent action on climate change.

Climate Justice Action has called a protest to coincide with the conference opening on December 7. Friends of the Earth International is preparing a “Flood for Climate Justice” on December 12, where protesters will “‘flood’ through the streets of Copenhagen with our demands for climate justice”.

The largest protest will be the December 12 “People First – Planet First” mass march, which is endorsed by more than 150 organisations worldwide.

Climate activists in Denmark have condemned the proposed laws and have appealed for international supporters to forward letters protest to Danish embassies worldwide. A briefing paper for activists about their legal rights for protesters in Denmark has been issued.

A letter from one Danish activist posted on the Another Green World blog on October 31 said: “These measures, if approved, will effectively criminalise protests involving any degree of peaceful civil disobedience … the law is aimed at the many thousands of climate activists, from all over the globe, who will be coming to Copenhagen.”

“We therefore call upon the Danish government not to pursue this legislation and to allow protesters to demonstrate and congregate without police harassment.”

An international petition has been launched in defense of the right to protest in Denmark. It said: “[The laws are] a threat to democratic participation during the summit and in the future. The new law package, if its implemented, will cause polarisation, confusion, and promote passivity. This is not useful in the situation we are in faced with the climate crisis.”

The petition can be signed here.

[Contact the Danish consulate in Sydney or Melbourne.]


Entry filed under: anti-protest laws, climate movement, Climate protest, Copenhagen, police.

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