Disruption at climate change march

2011-12-05 00:00

SATURDAY’S united civil society march for climate justice at COP17 in Durban was marred by violence when a group of “volunteers” from the eThekwini Municipality attacked marchers who where chanting slogans critical of the South African government’s role in the UN climate talks.

Civil society spokesperson Niall Reddy said thousands of people from across the continent and the world gathered in Durban to demand climate justice.

He said the march was peaceful, with divergent activist groups uniting to demand action from governments around the world.

“There was, however, disruption during the course of the march in which a group of about 300 protesters, dressed in official COP17 volunteer uniforms, tore up placards, physically threatened and attacked activists participating in the march.

“In spite of heavy police presence throughout the march, including mounted police, riot police, air-patrol and snipers, and requests to address this disruption, police did not take any action …” said Reddy in a statement.

He said the disruptive group persistently attempted to take up positions at the head of the march, but agreed to retreat to the back following negotiations between march organisers and the professed leader of the group.

However, they found their way back to the middle of the march where they continued to cause a disruption.

He said the group wore uniforms distinguishing them as city volunteers for COP17, in green eThekwini tracksuits with city branding and emblems.

National police spokesperson Vish Naidoo said he was personally present during the march and that there were about 6 000 people marching.

“I didn’t see any fighting nor has anyone reported such to the police during or after the march. We are aware that a dispute arose between the organisers and a particular group before the march started. We were approached to intervene, but we advised the organisers to negotiate with the group. This was done and the march proceeded peacefully,” said Naidoo.

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