Sunday 18 August 2019

Rallies around globe call for climate action

Police fight with activists during a protest at the Place de la Republique in Paris
Police fight with activists during a protest at the Place de la Republique in Paris
Sophie Pettus and Sarah Kinnen taking part in the climate march in Galway yesterday
Protesters at the climate change march in Dublin yesterday
Green Party leader Eamon Ryan at the climate change march in Dublin yesterday

Kim Ripoll

Hundreds of thousands of people took part in rallies around the world yesterday, calling on leaders to halt climate change on the eve of a major UN climate conference in Paris.

Around 600,000 people marched in 2,300 events in 175 countries around the world.

The conference, which will run for almost two weeks, takes place amid a state of emergency in France - imposed after the November 13 Paris attacks - that bans marches. As a result, many of the rallies took place outside the country.

At one Paris rally, violence erupted between riot police and a group of several hundred protesters at the Place de la Republique, the site of a peaceful demonstration earlier. Police fired tear gas to disperse protesters throwing projectiles.

Thousands of demonstrators gathered in central Paris and formed a human chain along the route of a long-planned protest march that was banned by France's Socialist government in a security crackdown. Protesters chanted "a state of emergency is a police state."

The Paris police chief said that at least 100 people were detained after several hundred demonstrators, some masked and armed with projectiles, tried to force their way through a blockade at the Place de la Republique.

Michel Cadot said that the group lobbed glass bottles and other projectiles, including candles set out in homage to the 130 victims of extremist attacks. Shoes that had been laid out at a peaceful protest earlier to symbolise the inability to march were also thrown about.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls denounced the violence against police in a tweet, saying that respecting the square used to pay homage to attack victims "is to respect the memory of victims".

Climate pressure group said the protesters were unaffiliated with the climate movement and broke "the non-violent pledge that every group involved in the climate coalition" signed off on.

Meanwhile, thousands of people marched through London, urging world leaders not to blow their chance to take strong action on climate change.

Actress Emma Thompson, designer Vivienne Westwood and Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn were among demonstrators urging politicians to strike a binding agreement at climate talks in Paris.

Mr Corbyn told the crowd that the talks were "an enormous opportunity" to tackle "pollution, climate change, inequality, environmental refugees, war refugees and resources wars. If we are to make a real difference in Paris, all these issues have got to be thought about and addressed."

Thompson said that climate change, once seen as a fringe cause, was now "the issue of the 21st century".

Numbers at the London march from Hyde Park to the Whitehall government district were swelled by the ban on a protest march in Paris.

Thousands of people took to the streets of several Spanish cities to demand a commitment from world leaders to halt climate change in what organisers said was the largest pro-environment mobilisation in Spain to date.

Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace both said around 20,000 protesters marched in Madrid, while thousands also marched through cities such as Barcelona, Bilbao, Las Palmas, Murcia, Pamplona, Seville, Valladolid and Zaragoza.

About 4,000 people held a rally in the German capital, marching from Berlin's train station to the Brandenburg Gate to listen to speeches and music.

"I hope that there is a climate agreement that really helps, but I fear actually that the countries and government leaders will only agree to something that won't help, primarily a weak agreement that will not help the living conditions on this planet," said Dr Anton Hofreiter, member of the Green Party in Germany's parliament.

Irish Independent

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