Climate Demonstration Turns Violent as Parisians Protest Against Police State
In cities across the globe, hundreds of thousands of people are marching to demand action on the eve of the Paris climate summit. But at the site of the United Nations conference, some Parisians turned the environmental protest into one regarding civil liberties, resulting in a violent clash with the police.
Officers used batons and tear gas to push back against masked demonstrators who antagonized the police by throwing water bottles and sticks at them. Roughly 200 people were arrested, the BBC reports. The group of aggressors was reportedly protesting against France’s state of emergency.
Public demonstrations ahead of the climate summit were prohibited in Paris in the wake of the terrorist attacks on Nov. 13 that killed 130 people. Because of the ban, Parisians left thousands of pairs of shoes—including pairs donated by Pope Francis and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon—in the Place de la République to represent those who would have participated in the canceled march.
French President François Hollande called the confrontation “scandalous,” noting that memorials left to honor those killed in the attacks were trampled during the clash.
Global environmental group 350.org organized a human chain of environmental supporters in Paris but said the group of belligerent Parisians were not a part the climate demonstration, issuing the following statement: “Starting around 2:30 p.m., a small group of protesters unaffiliated with the climate movement arrived at Republique and began to clash with the police there, violating the nonviolent pledge that every group involved in the climate coalition here in France has agreed to.” However, the group also tweeted that the demonstrators should be allowed to continue with peaceful protests.
Although the Paris event turned violent, some 2,000 other events around the nation were peaceful. Activists carrying cardboard polar bears and signs demanding 100 percent renewable energy appeared hopeful that the nearly 150 world leaders attending the historic summit will establish concrete plans to reduce carbon emissions.
Organizers estimate that nearly 600,000 people participated, with the largest demonstrations in Melbourne and London. Familiar faces came out to add their support in London, including actor Emma Thompson, designer Vivienne Westwood, and singer Charlotte Church. There was even a spin session from Radiohead front man Thom Yorke.