Denmark: Copenhagen police lose court case

Mass detentions at climate summit last year were illegal

The Copenhagen City Court on Thursday convicted police for 250 illegal detentions during climate protests between 11 and 16 December 2009.

"This is a great victory", said Mattias Bernhardsson, city councillor for Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna (CWI in Sweden) and one of the 250 plaintiffs who received the court’s verdict yesterday.

Police and politicians say that mass arrests were made in full accordance with Danish law (the infamous ’lymmelpakken’ created especially for the climate summit). If this is so, it means that the right to demonstrate and basic democratic rights are under threat.

"If we let the police deal with environmental activists like this now, others will be arrested tomorrow", said Mattias Bernhardsson, who argued that massive arrests of this nature will also be used against striking workers, youth and other protests in the future.

178 of the plaintiffs were arrested on 12 December 2009 at Amagerbrogade when they attended a mass demonstration with 100,000 participants. The police attacked the rally without provocation, by a "pincer movement", and detained 1,000 people. 905 protesters were detained for several hours, tied with bolt straps and stacked over each other on the ground in the December cold.

The Court held that the police had no right to detain the 905 when they did not represent any danger or disturb public order. The Court ruled that the conditions during arrest and imprisonment were degrading and in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights, Articles 3, and gave each of the 178 candidates 9,000 crowns (€1,200) in compensation. However, the police authorities have appealed this sentence.

The police’s agenda was, from the beginning, to make an example of the protestors. Tape recordings revealed how the police chief ordered his men on 16 December to "go unrestrained" on both protesters and press journalists with batons at Bella Center, where the climate summit was held last year. They should be turned "glowing red" according to the tape.

This police violence also reflected that the right-wing government, with the support of the racist Danish People’s Party, wants to see tougher measures against anyone who protests. The verdict is a slap in the face for all the right-wing establishment and their ’lymmelpakkens’ days may now be numbered, the media speculates.

At the same time, this year’s climate summit in Cancun, Mexico, ended without any binding commitments. This, as expected, is yet another failure of capitalism regarding the climate and humanity’s future. The hope for change lies entirely in the hands of workers and youth, workers’ struggle and the social movements that are taking the fight for climate justice to a worldwide level.

Link to interview with Mattias Bernhardsson in the biggest daily in south Sweden, Sydsvenskan

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December 2010