Global Day of Action on Climate Change
Saturday was the Global Day of Action. Demonstrations against climate change took place around the world, including in Toronto. In Durban, civil society gathered for COP 17 marched through the streets, attracting a lot of curious onlookers.
The faith contingent met at the Diakonia Centre in central Durban. Canadian faith leaders Willard Metzger (Mennonite) and Moderator Mardi Tindal (UCC) were two of the faith leaders who marched at the front, with the We Have Faith banner.
To get to the Diakonia Centre, we hitched a ride from the Glenmore Pastoral Centre with the “We Have Faith” caravans that travelled from Nairobi to Durban in the weeks preceding the COP. I’ve spoken to many of the participants of that journey (Claire from the UK who’s part of Youth for Eco-Justice was also part of it), and seen some video clips, and it looked amazing!!
Reports vary, but there were anywhere from 3,000 to 20,000 people marching that day. It certainly felt like many more; George, who took my video camera and climbed onto a terrace of a building to get an aerial shot, told me that he tried to see the beginning or the end of the march, and he couldn’t. There were that many people.
Some words from Caroline Foster, of KAIROS Canada:
Some of the most powerful songs, chants and dances of protest took place while we were waiting to join with the wider rally. There was a large contingent of youth who have travelled on the caravans. They were a vibrant group leading others in the chants and songs. One in particular stood out to me. One young person began by calling out “hello?” to which everyone else in the group would respond “hello!” and this was repeated several times before the leader would give a statement such as “we came from all across Africa and will not leave without being heard” after which everyone would cheer. I found this particularly relevant as it is pertinent to the situation that our calls are answered. It is one thing for us to call out, but who is listening and who will answer? This chant demanded a group response that all were eager to give. “This is our future,” they said “and not their future.” They were very clear that they have heard enough talk. It’s time for action.
The police presence was exceedingly high. At previous rallies I’ve been to, I’m never sure if the police are there to protect the public from us, or us from the public. At London’s (UK) Reclaim the Night march that I participated in 2 years ago, the police were definitely there to protect us. At this march, I wasn’t so sure. Mainly because the majority of them had riot shields, and they were plainly blocking us from entering certain establishments (such as McDonalds…not sure why…and a hotel). And we spotted police with guns on the tops of buildings along the route, particularly at the intersections. It was a bit unnerving.
This all made much more sense to me when I heard about the Hilton here, where some of the more high-powered delegates are staying. It’s entirely rented by COP17, and they have security on the premises who only let people in who are staying there. Us peasants can’t even go into the boutique if we wanted to. It demonstrates what I’ve been feeling a lot, that this COP is really separating people – those who have power, and those who do not. I’ve been feeling quite isolated from what’s happening inside COP, and after hearing about this, and seeing all the police, I’m not surprised I feel that way.
After the march, we headed down to the beach for some lunch and to see the exhibits for COP along the beachfront. There was also a concert on the beach in the afternoon and into the evening, when there was an NGO party. I saw this interesting sign of Obama on the beach. And as we were traveling back to where we were staying, I also saw signs with Harper’s mug on them. Canada, seriously – what are we doing with a majority Harper government?? I’ve never seen my beloved country in such a sorry state, nor have I ever been more nervous about my own rights and freedoms. Or the survival of Earth.