Climate Protesters, Police Clash Outside Paris Summit

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French CRS riot police take cover behind shields during clashes with demonstrators near the Place de la Republique after the cancellation of a planned climate march, Paris, November 29, 2015.
French CRS riot police take cover behind shields during clashes with demonstrators near the Place de la Republique after the cancellation of a planned climate march, Paris, November 29, 2015. Credit: Reuters

Tens of thousands of people have taken part in rallies around the world on Sunday, calling on leaders to halt climate change on the eve of a major UN climate conference in Paris.

The nearly two-week conference comes amid a state of emergency in France imposed after the November 13 Paris attacks that bans marches so many of the rallies are taking place outside the country.

But violence quickly erupted between French riot police and a group of several hundred at a major square that was the site of a peaceful demonstration earlier. Police fired tear gas to disperse protesters throwing projectiles.

Thousands of demonstrators gathered in central Paris and formed a human chain along the route of a long-planned protest march that was banned by France's Socialist government. Protesters chanted “a state of emergency is a police state.”

The Paris police chief said that at least 100 people were detained after several hundred people, some masked and armed with projectiles, tried to force their way through a blockade at the Place de la Republique.

Michel Cadot told reporters that police identified 200 or 300 people who violated a ban on protests under the country's state of emergency. Cadot said that the group lobbed glass bottles and other projectiles, including candles set out in homage of the 130 victims of extremist attacks. Shoes laid out at a peaceful protest earlier meant to symbolize the inability to march also were tossed about.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls denounced the violence against police in a tweet, saying that respecting the square, used to pay homage to attack victims, “is to respect the memory of victims.”

It was not immediately clear if those involved in the violence were from a specific group. A known climate pressure group,, said the protesters were “unaffiliated with the climate movement and broke “the non-violent pledge that every group involved in the climate coalition” signed off on.

Police fired numerous rounds of tear gas to disperse the group.

Thousands gathered peacefully earlier, at the square to lay down empty shoes and in a human chain along a boulevard where protesters had planned to march, site of some of the attacks. The protests were held ahead of the critical global warming talks outside Paris beginning on Monday.

“We don’t have a planet B”

Thousands of people took to the streets of several Spanish cities to demand a commitment from world leaders to halt climate change in what organizers are calling the largest pro-environment mobilization in Spain to date.

Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace both said around 20,000 protesters marched between Cibeles and Puerta del Sol in Madrid, while thousands also marched through cities such as Barcelona, Bilbao, Las Palmas, Murcia, Pamplona, Seville, Valladolid and Zaragoza.

At a march through the streets of Madrid, one banner read, “I am marching for my children and grandchildren” and another said “We don’t have a planet B.”

"Well, to be honest we don't expect much (from the politicians). That’s why we are here ...,” said Incarnacion Florin. “We have to do something. It must make a difference.”

The gatherings were organized by more than 400 Spanish NGOs and other organizations. Others around Spain were organized by the Alliance for the Climate and call on world leaders to reach "a fair, ambitious and binding agreement to avoid the worst consequences of climate change and accelerate the transition toward renewable sources of energy by 2050.

London and Berlin

Thousands of people marched through London, urging world leaders not to blow their chance to take strong action on climate change.

Actress Emma Thompson, designer Vivienne Westwood and Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn are among demonstrators urging politicians to strike a binding agreement at climate talks in Paris.

Corbyn told the crowd that the talks were "an enormous opportunity" to tackle "pollution, climate change, inequality, environmental refugees, war refugees and resources wars. If we are to make a real difference in Paris, all these issues have got to be thought about and addressed."

Thompson said that climate change, once seen as a fringe cause, was now "the issue of the 21st century."

Numbers at the London march from Hyde Park to the Whitehall government district were swelled by the ban on a protest march in Paris.

About 4,000 people held a rally in the German capital, marching from Berlin’s train station to the Brandenburg Gate to listen to speeches and music.

The protesters called on the delegates at the Paris conference to set ambitious targets, using an array of signs, including a picture of a polar bear with “Save Me” written on it, or simply “Stop Global Warming.”

“I hope that there is a climate agreement that really helps, but I fear actually that the countries and government leaders will only agree to something that won't help, primarily a weak agreement that will not help the living conditions on this planet,” said Dr. Anton Hofreiter, member of the Green Party in Germany’s parliament.

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