COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Police detained nearly 1,000 people in Copenhagen on Saturday during mass demonstrations to demand that negotiators at U.N. talks agree a strong treaty to fight global warming.
Tens of thousands of people marched through the city as part of a global “Day of Action” of climate rallies from Australia to the United States, but violence flared at one stage when demonstrators smashed windows and set fire to cars.
Riot police detained more than 900 people around the Danish capital after black-clad activists threw bottles and smashed windows. A police spokeswoman said the number had climbed to 968 shortly after 10 p.m. (2100 GMT).
Police said four cars were set on fire during the evening. One policeman was hurt by a stone and a Swedish man injured by a firework.
“You don’t have to use that kind of violence to be heard,” said Connie Hedegaard, the Danish minister presiding at the U.N. talks. She condemned rioters after welcoming the main march at a candlelit vigil outside the conference center.
One activist group accused the police of abuse after they detained around 400 black-clad demonstrators at the back of the march and forced them to sit on a road for hours in near-freezing temperatures, hands bound behind their backs.
The main demonstration was led by dancers, drummers and banners proclaiming: “There is no planet B” and “Change the politics, not the climate.” Some activists were dressed as penguins with signs reading: “Save the Humans!”
They marched to the conference center on the outskirts of the city, where negotiators from 192 nations are meeting from December 7-18 hoping to agree a new U.N. climate pact.
Organizers said up to 100,000 people took part in the march, hoping their rally and others round the world would put pressure on a concluding summit of 110 world leaders on Thursday and Friday.
In the main march, some held a giant inflatable snowman as a symbol of the threat of largescale melting icecaps and glaciers.
The U.N. panel of climate scientists says the accelerating loss of vital masses of ice, caused by rising temperatures resulting mainly from burning fossil fuels, will lead to rising sea levels, floods, desertification and heat waves.
The demonstration won wide praise.
“They marched in Berlin, and the Wall fell. They marched in Cape Town, and the wall fell,” South African Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu told a candlelit vigil. “They marched in Copenhagen — and we are going to get a real deal.”
“There is a lot to fight for in the remaining week of negotiations,” said Kumi Naidoo, chair of the organizing group “TckTckTck.” Activists want the talks to agree a full legal treaty — a goal most governments say is out of reach.
Elsewhere, thousands of Australians held a “Walk Against Warming.” Naidoo said 4,000 events, such as marches or candlelit vigils, were being held from Fiji to Nepal to show support for deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.
In Copenhagen, Caroline, a Danish girl aged 7, carried a homemade sign saying: “Look after our world until I grow up.”
“Mountains are changing, glaciers are melting,” said Nepalese Sherpa Pertamba, who came to Denmark to demonstrate with a group of 30 mountaineers. “Now is the time to think about future generations.”
In Sydney, protesters carried placards reading: “I like clean energy and I vote,” “No meat, no heat” and “No new coal mines,” a reference to Australia’s status as one of the world’s leading exporters of coal.
Inside the conference hall in Copenhagen, delegates claimed progress on some fronts but the hardest decisions on sharing out curbs on greenhouse gas emissions and funding to help the poor are likely to be left for the summit.
“We have made considerable progress over the course of the first week,” said Denmark’s Hedegaard. She said she would hold talks on Sunday with 48 environment ministers. “We still have a daunting task in the next few days,” she added.
Hedegaard said negotiators had made progress with texts such as defining how new green technologies like wind and solar power can be supplied to developing nations, and in promoting the use of forests to soak up greenhouse gases.
But delegates said there were deep splits on raising funds for poor nations and sharing the burden of CO2 cuts.
Yvo de Boer, head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, said he hoped for more action by all.
“China is calling on the United States to do more. The United States is calling on China to do more. I hope that in the coming days everyone will call for everyone to do more.”
Additional reporting by Sunanda Creagh, Erik Kirschbaum, Laure Bretton, writing by Alister Doyle; editing by Tim Pearce