Copenhagen Talks Tough on Climate Protest Plans


COPENHAGEN — At an abandoned beer warehouse in this city’s Valby district,
law enforcement officials have constructed an elaborate holding
facility with three dozen steel cages to accommodate more than 350
potential troublemakers during a United Nations climate conference that gets under way here on Monday. 

Critics call the holding pens
— and a variety of other security preparations made as thousands of
government officials, heads of state, environmental groups and assorted
anarchists descend on the Danish capital — over the top. The police say
the reactions of the critics are overheated, if predictable.

is surely the biggest police action we have ever had in Danish
history,” said Per Larsen, the chief coordinating officer for the
Copenhagen police force. “But I think the complaints are the kind we
are very used to hearing in this country.”

Officials have made it
clear that they aim to keep the peace during the 12-day conference,
organized under United Nations auspices. From new laws rushed through
Parliament allowing stiffer fines and extended detentions for those
deemed unruly to public displays of newly acquired antiriot and
emergency equipment, leaders here say they are preparing for the worst
while hoping for the best. Meanwhile, a variety of protest and advocacy
groups — some with obscure political lineage — have signaled in online
postings and other public statements that they will not be cooperating.

Mr. Larsen said that about $122 million was being spent to secure the city and to fortify the Bella Center,
a sprawling site southeast of central Copenhagen where more than 15,000
participants and onlookers will gather as negotiators forge the
framework for an agreement to address climate change.

steel fences atop concrete barricades surround the center, and vehicles
can enter only through well-armed police checkpoints. The southern
reaches of the Inderhavnen Canal, which runs just west of the center,
are embroidered with concertina wire to prevent access by water.

Germany and Sweden have contributed vehicles and bomb-sniffing dogs, and Denmark has received permission from the European Commission, the executive body of the European Union, to reintroduce border checkpoints should it be necessary.

Thursday, the police set a car on fire as part of a demonstration of a
newly acquired water cannon, which is also capable of dispersing
crowds. Police officers from various parts of Denmark have been
reassigned to Copenhagen, bringing the force here to around 6,500

In a reflection of security concerns, the police
briefly restricted access to the Bella Center on Sunday as journalists
arrived for a news conference. An officer who would not give his name
said that the police were scrutinizing a suspicious object to make sure
it was not a bomb. It turned out to be a suitcase filled with clothes.

of some human rights and environmental groups have said that the show
of force could keep peaceful demonstrators at home.

“Obviously, the police have to be ready for whatever might occur,” said Lene Vennits, general secretary for People’s Climate Action,
an umbrella organization representing dozens of Danish environmental
and advocacy groups. “On the other hand, we think the rhetoric, with
pictures of the new water cannon and the fires, is too much, and we are
afraid that the ordinary Danish demonstrator will be frightened away.”

Demonstrations, like a march from the city center to the United Nations
meeting place on Saturday, will be permitted by the police at
pre-approved sites or along specified routes. More spontaneous
gatherings will also be tolerated, although the police issued a
statement banning open-air meetings that “may constitute a danger to
the public order.”

The statement also stipulated that
participants in public demonstrations “are not allowed to conceal their
faces in whole or in part with a hood, a mask, paint or similar.”

the rules, several organizations are promising to test Copenhagen’s
definition of law and order. An organization called Climate Justice
Action has announced plans to penetrate the Bella Center and “take over
the conference for one day and transform it into a Peoples Assembly,”
according to a statement on the group’s Web site.

A murkier organization called Never Trust A COP — a reference to the 15th Conference of the Parties, the official name of the United Nations meeting
— promises on its Web site that members will “consciously attack the
structures supporting the COP15” and “break through the lines of their

Mr. Larsen said that his officers would have low
tolerance for behavior that deviates from “Danish society as we prefer
it to be.”

The police will be helped in that regard by new laws
that allow them to arrest and hold people for up to 40 days for
“hindering the police.” Other protesters deemed to be a problem can be
held for 12 hours without formal charges.

Most short-term detainees will pass through the holding facility at the former Carlsberg
beer depot, designed to process up to 1,000 people over a 24-hour
period. Ida Thuesen, a spokeswoman for the human rights group Amnesty
Denmark, called that plan inhumane.

“International standards
require that people being arrested are not humiliated, that they should
have room to lie down and sleep and go to the toilet,” she said. “These
cages are not good enough.”

Mr. Larsen said that the holding pens, while not luxurious, was in keeping with all international conventions.

emphasized that the police would allow people to express themselves
peacefully, but those looking to stir discord on the streets or to
commandeer the proceedings should think twice.

“If you listen
to their announcements, they say they want to enter the Bella Center on
the 16th to make a speech on the negotiation floor,” he said. “I can
only say that they will not be able to enter the Bella Center.”

Lars Kroldrup contributed reporting.