Defiant NGOs swap rallies for art in post-attack Paris

People place flowers on a gate outside the Stae de France during a commemoration ceremony for the victims of the Nov 13 Paris attacks, at the Stade de France stadium, in Saint-Denis, northern Paris, France, on Nov 19, 2015.
People place flowers on a gate outside the Stae de France during a commemoration ceremony for the victims of the Nov 13 Paris attacks, at the Stade de France stadium, in Saint-Denis, northern Paris, France, on Nov 19, 2015. PHOTO: EPA

Paris (AFP) - Frustrated by the banning of rallies around a crunch climate summit in terror-hit Paris, activists vowed on Friday (Nov 20) to find alternative ways to make their voices heard.

Instead of a Nov 29 march from Place de la Republique square, not far from last Friday's jihadist massacre of people out for dinner, drinks and a concert, there will now be a "visual and audio route" created by artists, NGOs announced in the French capital.

Rallies to beat the drum for concerted political action against global warming had been planned for Nov 29, the day before some 138 heads of state and government are meant to open the summit, and Dec 12, the day after it closes.

 

But the French government on Wednesday banned both gatherings, citing security fears in the wake of the attacks which killed 130 people.

Paris police then denied permission for an alternative mass assembly in an enclosed and more easily safeguarded area.

Climate NGOs have reacted with a mix of disappointment and understanding, but fear their voice will be drowned out and the conversation left to politicians and business people.

"We will not abandon our mobilisation of Nov 29" or the rest of the conference, insisted Juliette Rousseau of Coalition Climat 21, an umbrella body of some 130 NGOs.

"The question now is how best to occupy the public space," she told journalists in Paris.

The Nov 29 march had been predicted to draw between 200,000 and 300,000 people to the City of Light.

More than 50 major rallies are being planned around the world on the same day - from London and Berlin to Sao Paolo, Bogota and New Delhi.

Civil society groups have urged people to turn out in great numbers for those events "on behalf of those (in Paris) who can't".

"We are determined to ensure that the much-needed peoples' call for climate justice will be heard loud and clear," said Jagoda Munic, of Friends of the Earth International, another umbrella group.

The details have yet to be worked out, but the Nov 29 march will be replaced by sidewalk art displays on a special route between two central Paris squares, Republique and la Nation.

"Within the limitations imposed on us, we will give expression to this rally in an artistic way," said Alix Mazounie, of the Climate Action Network.

The groups will also launch a website called march4me.org, where people in other cities can sign up to represent someone unable to march in Paris.

The NGOs have yet to decide how they will replace their December 12 action, which was to entail human chains in the city and at Le Bourget airport which will host the summit.

Other public events will continue as planned, including a "People's Climate Summit" in Paris with debates, workshops and film screenings, and special "Climate Generations" areas set aside at Le Bourget for discussion and exhibits.

About 40,000 delegates, journalists, observers, NGOs and other participants are accredited for the Nov 30 to Dec 11 marathon negotiation.

The talks are tasked with yielding a 195-nation pact to curb greenhouse gas emissions blamed for dangerous levels of climate change.