Durban climate protestors attacked by ANC youth

imageThis is a press statement from C17 Global Day of Action in Durban.

4December 2011 – On Saturday 3 December, the mid-point of COP
17, about 12 000 people from across the continent and the world  gathered in Durban to demand climate justice and unite against climate  change.

The march was largely peaceful, with divergent activist groups uniting  to demand action from governments around the world. The march  culminated in the handing over of memoranda of understanding to UNFCCC  COP17 President Maite Nkoana-Mashabane and UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres.

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. This was a major failure of the police to act to  prevent this group from destabilising the march and injuring other  activists.

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

The disruptive group wore uniforms distinguishing them as city  volunteers for COP 17, in green eThekwini tracksuits with city branding  and emblems, but acknowledged themselves to be ANC Youth League supporters, displaying pro-Zuma and anti-Malema placards.

As volunteers paid daily by the municipality of eThekwini, it is of  grave concern that their intimidation of peaceful marchers was left  unchallenged by those in authority. As such, the city manager and  mayor, together with the UNFCCC must answer to the involvement of this  group and the failure of authorities to address this unnecessary  violence.

The need for action on climate change is urgent, and civil society  stands united against climate change. But we also stand against  violence and intimidation of any kind, which impacts on our right to  assembly. Organisations were invited to attend the march on the  understanding that it would be a peaceful protest. Every individual is  welcome to civil society marches, but we are deeply concerned about  whether this group will return to other peaceful assemblies, and the  city needs to take urgent action to make sure that such destabilisation  does not re-occur.

The threatening behaviour during the march yesterday constitutes an  attack on democracy and cannot be tolerated.

Civil society groups are calling a press conference today regarding the
infringement of democratic rights of activists to protest.

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